An investigation has now been launched into why the officer who responded to an incident in the Bronx area of the city fired his gun rather than disarming the woman in another way, such as by using a Taser.
During a news conference called after the incident, Assistant Police Chief Larry W. Nikunen, who is commanding officer of Patrol Borough Bronx, said: “The sergeant was armed with a Taser. It was not deployed, and the reason it was not deployed will be part of the investigation and review.
In a later statement, New York police commissioner James O’Neill went further, admitting to assembled media “we failed”.
He added: “Every life to me is precious. I think that we’ve been in this business a very long time, we’ve established procedures and protocols for handling emotionally disturbed people. That’s to keep everybody safe, that’s to keep the cops safe, the community safe and the person that we’re dealing with safe.”
Commissioner O’Neill then made a promise that police and prosecutors would be carefully investigating to work out what went wrong in this case.
Police had been called after a neighbour complained that 66-year-old Deborah Danner was behaving in “an irrational manner”. It was the latest in a number of similar calls police had previously received to the address.
According to police sources, officers found Ms Danner in her bedroom in her seventh-floor apartment where she was wielding a pair of scissors while making threats towards police.
A uniformed sergeant managed to convince her to put the scissors down. But she then approached police with a baseball bat. As she tried to hit the sergeant, he fired two shots, striking her in the chest.
The woman, who has not yet been officially named, was blue-lighted to Jacobi Hospital where she was pronounced dead.
The shooting has been compared to that of Eleanor Bumpurs, a grandmother with mental health issues, who was fatally shot in the Bronx in 1984.
Campaigners say this latest shooting highlights once again the need to review whether it is right that police are the authorities called to respond in these cases involving mental health issues and, if so, whether officers are properly trained to handle such difficult situations.