One of Us: Deborah Danner

The following is a letter sent to the congregation and staff of Trinity Church Wall Street by the Rev. Winnie Varghese, Trinity’s Director of Justice and Reconciliation.

Dear friends,

Members of Trinity staff and congregation have been attending the trial of NYPD Sergeant Hugh Barry.

Some of you have asked to be updated and for more information about the trial. Lucas Pershing (lpershing@trinitywallstreet.org) is your primary contact. He is attending the trial daily as work schedule permits, and he is sending out evening updates.

Hugh Barry is the officer who fatally shot Deborah Danner October 18, 2016 in her apartment in the Bronx. Deborah was involved with a few Episcopal Churches in New York City, including Trinity Wall Street. She was also a person living with mental illness, well known to her local police because she would occasionally have a mental health crisis. Her death was a tragedy and this trial has the possibility of becoming a leverage point in mandated training of police officers for the engagement of people in a mental health crisis.

Police officers respond to hundreds of Mental Health Emergency or Emotionally Disturbed Person calls daily. One officer on the stand yesterday said every call in his precinct is an "EDP."

The trial is a bench trial, which means the judge renders the decision. Episcopalians have been there every day. Our attendance is prayerful and a witness to the humanity of Deborah. She was a 66-year-old black woman who was sick. The call that resulted in her death was a call for health care, not to report a crime.

This email is a request for you to consider attending, if your work schedule allows, and to invite others to attend. If you cannot attend, we ask for your prayers, and for your social media shares. I’ve posted some of the media coverage the trial has received below. If you have ways to share the news in your communities and to your elected officials that this trial, please consider raising the profile of this case by doing so.

If you are thinking about attending, my experience has been that it is fairly straightforward. I have been twice in clericals. I have seen clergy and church members from Trinity Wall Street, Heavenly Rest, and St. Mary's in Harlem. You can choose to sit in the courtroom or an overflow room. You can come and go as needed.

Court will be in sessio Thursday, Feburary 8, and Friday, February 9, at the Bronx County Hall of Justice, 265 E. 161st St. in the Bronx, in courtroom #340, beginning at 10am. You might want to arrive early. The line forms outside as early as 9:15, but doors open very close to 10. Be careful of the cold! Some of the Episcopalians eat lunch together around 12:30. We expect the trial to go through next week as well.

There is a rota/sign-up sheet to get involved. To be added to that list please email Anne Marie Witchger (AMWitchger@heavenlyrest.org). We are working on a way to send updates. We will probably use the list that Anne Marie is keeping, so please contact her if you are interested in updates.

If you've read this far, thank you! We are working on how we can communicate more about what is happening, and we hope you will help us amplify the story. Mental illness touches all of our lives, and we know we can be a better support to our neighbors in crisis.

With prayers for you and your ministry,

Winnie

The Rev. Winnie Varghese
Priest and Director
Justice and Reconciliation

https://www.wnyc.org/story/trial-begins-police-sergeant-charged-murder-mentally-ill-bronx-woman/ - Episcopal mention, quotes, text different from broadcast story.

http://www.ny1.com/nyc/bronx/news/2018/01/31/nypd-sgt--on-trial-for-murder-in-2016-shooting-death-of-mentally-ill-elderly-woman - Clip with press conference.

http://abc7ny.com/murder-trial-begins-for-nypd-sergeant-who-shot-mentally-ill-woman-/3008251/ - Clip with press conference.

https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/NYPD-Sergeant-Hugh-Barry-Murder-Trial-Shooting-Death-Deborah-Danner-Schizophrenic-Bronx-Woman-471775203.html - Clip with short video of press conference.

http://pix11.com/2018/01/30/nypd-sergeant-who-killed-mentally-ill-woman-goes-on-trial/ - Clip with short video of press conference.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/30/nyregion/fatal-police-shooting-trial.html - Recap with group photo, Episcopal mention.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/nypd-cop-who-killed-mentally-ill-woman-was-sued-twice-for-excessive-force- Barry sued twice for excessive force.