Four years before she was killed, Deborah Danner wrote an essay referencing the mortal dangers the mentally ill face when dealing with police.
Danner, a 66-year-old woman suffering from schizophrenia, was fatally shot by police in New York on Tuesday after a confrontation in her apartment.
Police were responding to a call that Danner was acting irrationally, and when she tried to attack sergeant Hugh Barry with a baseball bat, he shot the woman twice in the torso, killing her, according to police accounts.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD commissioner James O’Neill both condemned the shooting, saying the police did not follow proper protocol for interacting with emotionally disturbed people. Investigators will try to determine why Barry did not use the Taser he was equipped with. Additionally, he should have waited for more specialised help to arrive, de Blasio said.
In an essay written in 2012, Danner describes her struggles with schizophrenia — the mental disorder she called her “curse.” In one chilling passage, Danner pointedly describes the risks the mentally ill face when interacting with police.
“We are all aware of the all too frequent news stories about the mentally ill who come up against law enforcement instead of mental health professionals and end up dead,” she wrote in the essay, which was provided to The New York Times by a lawyer who worked with her.
Danner referenced the 1984 death of Eleanor Bumpurs, another mentally ill woman from New York who was killed by police in her apartment.
“Police were not trained sufficiently in how to engage the mentally ill in crisis,” Danner wrote. “This was not an isolated incident.”
Danner wrote that the nature of schizophrenia is “a complete loss of control” and lamented the stigma surrounding mental illness and the damage it inflicts on those who suffer from them.
“Those who don’t suffer believe the worst of those of us who do. We’re treated with suspicion as liars who can’t be trusted to control ourselves. We’re asked to accept less than [our] natural rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Read Danner’s whole essay here.
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