Deborah Danner was a 66-year-old Black woman with schizophrenia. In 2016, an NYPD officer shot her in her Bronx apartment while responding to her neighbor’s call that she had been behaving erratically. She did not survive.
Chillingly, Danner wrote an essay four years before her death about the dangers of people with mental health conditions interacting with police that predicted her fate.
“We are all aware of the all too frequent news stories about the mentally ill who come up against law enforcement instead of mental health professionals,” she wrote. “And end up dead.”
Conversely, prominent victims of police brutality like Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Elijah McClain and Tanisha Anderson all had disabilities or underlining health issues that may have played significant roles in their deaths — yet these aspects of their identities tend to get glossed over.
In cases of police violence against Black disabled people, the media tends to focus on either the victim’s race or the victim’s disability, instead of examining the overlap between the two identities, said Vilissa Thompson, a Black disabled social worker and activist who is a consultant for the Movement 4 Black Lives. This gives the public an incomplete story.
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