NYPD COP WHO KILLED DEBORAH DANNER HAS HISTORY OF VIOLENCE SAYS LAWYER WHO SUED HIM
OFFICER HUGH BARRY'S BRUTALITY WAS CAUGHT ON CAMERA AT A 2011 SMIF-N-WESSUN CONCERT IN NYC
BY KEEGAN STEPHAN
The NYPD officer who shot and killed 66-year-old Deborah Danner in her Bronx apartment on Tuesday night — prompting the police commissioner to issue a statement admitting that proper procedures weren’t followed — has twice been sued for assault and civil rights violations, costing the city an undisclosed amount of money. In one incident, his actions were captured on video, but the NYPD failed to take any meaningful action against Officer Hugh Barry (pictured on the left next to the man he assaulted). Instead, they promoted him.
Mass Appeal spoke with Kenneth Montgomery, a criminal defense and civil rights attorney, who was given the opportunity to question Barry at trial on behalf of a client and he says he is “not surprised” that the officer ended up killing someone. At the 2011 album release party for Monumental, the collaboration between rappers Smif-N-Wessun and producer Peter Rock, Montgomery witnessed a melee involving Officer Barry in which multiple people were arrested.
According to Montgomery, there were several arrests on that June night at and outside the LES venue Tammany Hall. The police “came there to fight,” he says. “It wasn’t about diplomacy. They had a mob mentality. There wasn’t a riot going on or anything. It was a calm event. But the police didn’t even go inside to try to talk to anybody about whatever complaint they were there for. They stood outside, pulled on their black leather gloves – and it was hot, it was the middle of summer – and started grabbing people as they were leaving and shoving them.”
Montgomery says his client, Gabriel Diaz, was leaving the area as instructed by police when cops started shoving him from behind, then hitting him with a baton. The incident can be seen in the video below. Mongtomery says Officer Barry, can be seen jumping into the fray, repeatedly throwing overhead punches that landed on Diaz’s head:
The City was well aware of the incident at the time and apparently took no action. Initially, Diaz and the others arrested at the release party were charged with crimes ranging from resisting arrest to assault of a police officer, but as Montgomery began collecting video evidence, all the criminal charges were dropped.
Three of the men involved countersued and filed complaints with the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the NYC agency charged with investigating allegations of police misconduct. Despite the videos, the Civilian Complaint Review Board said the claims were “unsubstantiated.”
At trial, the videos were disclosed to the city and played back to the officers. The complaint points to Barry’s violent actions specifically:
On the stand, Montgomery said Barry was “remorseless” and “didn’t seem to understand the magnitude of what he had done or what was going on,” explains the attorney. The officers were ultimately found not guilty. Montgomery suspects this was the result of the largely suburban jury, which couldn’t conceive of officers being the aggressors, especially against a group of young, black men.
Last month, the NYPD decided to stop releasing officer’s discipline records, ending a 40 year practice of doing so, making it hard to ascertain if Barry was disciplined internally. But since the 2014 lawsuit, he has been promoted from P.O. to Sergeant.
And this was the second lawsuit against the officer. The first, in 2012, accused him of assaulting and pepper-spraying a subdued suspect, also a young, black man. The following is an excerpt from the complaint in which the the sole officer named was Barry.
Again, all charges were dropped, and the victim countersued. This case was settled out of court, another implied admission of guilt on the part of the city, costing taxpayers an undisclosed amount of money. For comparison, the three women pepper-sprayed by the NYPD during Occupy Wall Street received over $100,000 each. In 2014, it was reported that over $428 million was shelled out over a five year period in settlements against the NYPD and for the fiscal year 2016, $228.5 million was payed out for police misconduct.
While the NYPD said it “failed” by killing Deborah Danner, it appears to be trying to limit its culpability. In reality, the NYPD had ample evidence of Barry’s propensity to violence and excessive force before he killed Danner and yet, despite two lawsuits for assault — one settled out of court, and another with video evidence — the NYPD promoted Barry to sergeant.
Promoting officers involved in violent incidents has become a standard practice for the nation’s largest police force. The NYPD recently promoted the cop who killed Amadou Diallo and increased the pay of the officers who killed Ramarley Graham and Eric Garner, long after their killings of black men sparked protests and made national headlines.
“The City defended these officers very aggressively,” says Montgomery. “People don’t understand how unqualified these officers are to have guns and be assessing danger.”
Surely the NYPD does not understand this, as it continues to defend officers against multiple charges of excessive force, and increases their presence in communities of color for non-criminal offenses under the banner of “community policing.”