A New York City police officer fatally shot a 66-year-old black woman who was wielding a baseball bat, police officials said on Wednesday.
The officer who fired the fatal shots was also armed with a Taser, but did not deploy it, a police official said.
The shooting occurred at the woman’s apartment in the Bronx Tuesday evening when police responded to a call about a woman acting irrationally.
Police found the woman unclothed and armed with a pair of scissors, New York Police Department assistant chief Larry Nikunen told reporters on Tuesday. A police sergeant convinced her to put the scissors down, but the woman then tried to attack him with a baseball bat, Nikunen said.
The officer fired two shots into the woman’s torso, he said. She was pronounced dead at Jacobi Medical Center.
The woman, identified as Deborah Danner, had a history of erratic behaviour, residents of her apartment building told CBS New York. Police had responded to “several incidents” with the woman in the past, Nikunen said.
The officer, Hugh Barry, is an eight-year veteran of the department. He has been placed on “modified assignment,” meaning he is stripped of his badge and gun pending an investigation, CNN reported.
The investigation, conducted by the department’s force investigation division, will seek to determine why Nikunen opted for his service revolver over his Taser, Nikunen said.
In a statement, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. called the shooting “an outrage,” and accused the police department of “excessive force” against Danner.
“While I certainly understand the hard work that our police officers undertake to keep the streets of our city safe every single day, I also know what excessive force looks like,” Diaz said. “This elderly woman was known to the police department, yet the officer involved in this shooting failed to use discretion to either talk her down from her episode or, barring that, to use his stun gun.”
“That is totally unacceptable,” he added.
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill seemed to agree with the assessment.
“We failed,” O’Neill said on Wednesday, according to CBS New York. “We do have policies and procedures for handling emotionally-disturbed people. It looks like that some of those procedures were not followed.”
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