On Wednesday, New York City Police sergeant Hugh Barry was charged with murder, stemming from an incident in which he shot and killed an elderly woman with a long history of mental illness inside her apartment, according to the New York Times.
Following months of investigation, Barry, who had been on the police force for eight years, was officially charged with "second-degree murder, first- and second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide," for the murder of 66-year-old Deborah Danner, according to the Times. Barry was also suspended from his job without pay.
Murder charges for law enforcement officials are extremely rare, and police officers seldom face criminal charges. In 2015, roughly 1,207 people were killed by the police in the U.S. and not a single officer was convicted.
The story of Deborah Danner's death is a tragic one. On October 18, police received a call from neighbors of Danner who said she was "acting erratically at an apartment building in the Castle Hill neighborhood." Four officers and two paramedics responded to the scene; Barry, 31, showed up a few minutes later. The initial police account stated that Danner tried to swing a bat at Barry, at which point he shot her twice, fatally, according to the Times. After the incident, Barry lost badge and gun privileges and was placed on "modified duty."
The Times reported:
After Ms. Danner’s death, the Bronx district attorney, Darcel D. Clark, asked the state to impanel a special grand jury to hear evidence in the case. But the state attorney general, who has the power to investigate police shootings of unarmed people, declined to pursue a formal inquiry, suggesting the preliminary evidence had confirmed that Ms. Danner was armed when she was killed.
Ms. Clark, a former judge and the wife of a city police detective, took over the investigation and sought a grand jury in December.
Edward D. Mullins, the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, condemned the grand jury decision on Wednesday in a statement, and defended Barry's right to use deadly force because he was fearful for his life.