When Sgt. Hugh Barry's murder trial began, it was not known if he would testify. But Tuesday, the eight-year NYPD veteran took the witness stand, declaring that he shot 66-year-old Deborah Danner because she had a baseball bat and he feared for his life.
"She was in the middle of a swing and that's when I shot her," Barry said during his testimony.
Barry's testimony came eight days after Officer Camilo Rosario, who was behind Barry in Danner's Bronx apartment, testified that he did not see Danner swing the bat.
The officers were called to the building because Danner, a schizophrenic, was screaming in the hallway.
Barry testified that he initially got Danner to put down a pair of scissors, and was trying to coax her out of her room.
He said that when she was close enough to grab, he rushed Danner, but she ran back inside and grabbed the bat.
"She was a lot faster than she came off," he testified. He added later, "I stopped and immediately drew my firearm...If I ran towards her, she was going to crack me in the head."
Barry said he told her several times, "Ma'am, drop the bat."
He said he fired when she took a step toward him and started to swing.
The sergeant's union said the shooting was justified.
"Deadly physical force being used upon any individual justifies deadly physical force to terminate that threat," said Ed Mullins, the president of the Sergeant's Benevolent Association.
Meminger: Why not grab her, because that's what he was planning to do?
Mullins: What people don't understand is, you know, we can Monday Morning Quarterback all of this.
Also in the courtroom were some of Danner's church friends. They said that after the sergeant's testimony, they still feel he was wrong in shooting her.
"I don't think she could've been very fast, because she was 66 and obese and I never saw her move fast," said Cynthia Moten, one of Danner's friends. "Once she went back in the room, I think it was not rational for him to follow her."
Prosecutors grilled Barry, suggesting he failed to follow the NYPD patrol guide, which counsels police officers to take their time in dealing with an emotionally disturbed person.
Asked why he didn't use a taser, Barry testified, "A taser is not appropriate at this point….This is a bat."
"The bottom line is, within five minutes of his arrival, Deborah Danner was dead, and all of his training says that time is your friend," said Hawk Newsome, the president of Black Lives Matter New York. "He didn't take his time."
Closing arguments in the trial are scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday. This is a non-jury trial, and the judge is expected to render his verdict Thursday.