Deborah Danner‘s family received a devastating blow on Thursday when the New York police sergeant who killed the 66-year-old mentally ill Black woman in October 2016 was cleared of all charges. Bronx Supreme Court Judge Robert Neary acquitted Sgt. Hugh Barry in the police brutality case that had drawn support from many activists, including the #SayHerName movement.
Barry was charged with second-degree murder, two counts of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide by prosecutors who decried his actions as “reckless,” the New York Daily News reported. A burden of proof was not reached due to lacking evidence from prosecutors, Neary said at Barry’s bench trial. The judge’s verdict is unsurprising, to say the least, sending the message that there is a great distance between crime and punishment when it comes to those who take Black lives.
Danner was fatally shot twice after a seconds-long standoff with Barry in the bedroom of her apartment in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx on Oct. 18, 2016. After responding to a 911 call about Danner tearing down fliers, they entered her apartment. Danner, a paranoid schizophrenic who was described as visibly “agitated,” ran to her bedroom in fear and grabbed a pair of scissors, police said. As the encounter escalated into a standoff, police failed to follow proper protocols in dealing with someone with emotional issues, assistant district attorney Wanda Perez-Maldonado argued during Wednesday’s summations.
“[As a member of the NYPD,] your goal is to protect life and for everybody to be safe,” Perez-Maldonado said. “He failed to fulfill his duties as a patrol supervisor, failed to use make use of all the resources available. He created the situation that led to her death. He failed Ms. Danner.”
Within five minutes of arriving at Danner’s home, Barry fired two deadly bullets into the senior citizen and caused her death. It was a killing that New York Mayor Bill De Blasio said was “unnecessary” almost immediately after Danner’s shooting, DNAinfo New York reported.
“She did not present a threat to other people because she was in a contained space,” DeBlasio said at the time.
Danner’s case caught the attention of many activists for spotlighting Black deaths related to mental health. And Danner’s name became a part of #SayHerName, a movement raising awareness about Black female victims of police brutality and anti-Black violence. For a cause that began in 2015 and has been championed by activists, celebrities and academics including its founder Kimberlé Crenshaw, it has not reached the level of recognition of the #MeToo movement. The #MeToo movement, initially begun by Tarana Burke, who is Black, has crossed cultural divides. However, #SayHerName, which fights to bring attention to Black women who are victims of police violence, has mainly found support among Black women.
But what if #SayHerName was supported by women of all races? What if #SayHerName connected congresswomen and Hollywood women to Black women like Danner?
The #SayHerName movement can reach more people, gain more strength —and grow—as #MeToo has since it began 10 years ago.