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Thread: Shooting Spree at City Hall - Brooklyn Councilman Killed

  1. #1
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    Nov 2002
    New York City

    Default Shooting Spree at City Hall - Brooklyn Councilman Killed

    TLOZ's note: this is an ongoing report, so this article is the most recent update as of posting time. *The source is Reuters. *I'm posting this at work and found out about it initially from my co-workers. *Other reports state that the shooter had been speaking with the dead councilman right before the shooting, so this might very well have been a personal vendetta.

    Paul Thomasch

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York City councilman dedicated to stopping violence was shot and killed on Wednesday in City Hall, one of the most tightly guarded buildings in America's largest city, but the shooting was not terrorism, officials said.

    A man pulled out a gun on the balcony of the second floor City Hall chamber during a council meeting shortly after 2 p.m., killing councilman James Davis, 41, officials said.

    A second unidentified person was seriously wounded but in the initial confusion it was not clear if this was the gunman himself, law enforcement sources said.

    "This is a terrible attack not just on two people but it is an attack on democracy," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. "It is not terrorism. It appeared to be a random act."

    Bloomberg was in his ground floor office at the time of the shooting, but he was unharmed. The businessman-turned-politician became mayor in January 2002, just months after the Sept. 11 hijacked plane attacks that killed about 3,000 people and destroyed the World Trade Center blocks from City Hall.

    "Two people were hit, one of whom is dead. Those are the only facts we know for sure," the mayor told reporters more than an hour after the shootings.

    Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. of Queens told NY1 TV that the dead man was Davis, a black politician from Brooklyn and retired New York police officer who campaigned to stop violence in black neighborhoods.


    New York has been on highest security alert since the Sept. 11 attacks and it was not clear how anyone could have passed through City Hall metal detectors with a gun. However, staff in the building said people familiar to security officers can enter without checks.

    "How the hell did someone get a gun in through all the security?" asked Council member Hiram Monserrate of Queens.

    Council members described the chaos inside the chamber.

    "I heard a loud boom and 20 to 30 shots fired," Councilman David Weprin told reporters. "It was a machinegun type of shot. Afterwards it looked like a war zone."

    Legislators, their staff, the mayor's staff, visitors and reporters fled the building after the shooting, which took place during a council discussion on whether to approve public pay toilets.

    Several other witnesses said a man opened fire into the council chamber from the balcony, which was crowded with about 100 people.

    City Hall was evacuated, the surrounding park and streets were cordoned off by police and nearby Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge were closed.

  2. #2

    Default Shooting Spree at City Hall

    July 24, 2003

    Councilman Is Shot to Death in City Hall


    City Councilman James Davis, a former New York City police officer and a founder of the community organization Love Yourself, Stop the Violence, was a crusader against urban violence.

    A New York City councilman was killed inside City Hall yesterday afternoon by a political opponent who accompanied him to a Council meeting, pulled out a pistol and shot him in front of scores of stunned lawmakers and onlookers, officials said.

    The gunman was then fatally shot by a police officer assigned to City Hall, who fired six shots from the floor of the Council chamber to the balcony where the councilman, James E. Davis, had been killed, officials said.

    The shooting stirred panic in the nearly 200-year-old seat of city government; officials initially believed that a gunman was still loose. City Hall was sealed, the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges were briefly closed, subway trains bypassed stops near City Hall, and several nearby streets were barricaded in a security clampdown that had some New Yorkers fearing that a terrorist attack had taken place.

    Investigators said the killing appeared to stem from a simmering political dispute between Councilman Davis, 41, of Brooklyn, and the gunman, Othniel Askew, 31, who had planned to challenge Mr. Davis this fall for his seat representing central Brooklyn in the Council.

    Mr. Askew was apparently able to slip his gun into City Hall by accompanying the councilman, who did not have to pass through metal detectors, officials said.

    Law enforcement officials said Mr. Askew had made a complaint to the Federal Bureau of Investigation just yesterday morning claiming that Mr. Davis had tried to drive him from the Council race, first by offering him a job and then by threatening to disclose embarrassing personal information about him. But the councilman's office said that Mr. Askew had failed to collect enough signatures to get on the ballot and that it was Mr. Askew who had approached the councilman about a job.

    The shooting occurred at one of the most heavily protected sites in the city. While Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has been credited with making City Hall more open and accessible to the public, all visitors are required to pass through airport-style metal detectors before entering, except for elected officials.

    The shooting led Mayor Bloomberg to declare that from now on everyone, including elected officials, would have to pass through the metal detectors.

    The mayor, who was working at his desk across the hall from the Council chamber at the time of the attack, was not harmed. Soon after the shooting, when City Hall was still sealed off as a giant crime scene and police officers with dogs were searching the building, Mayor Bloomberg broadcast an interview from the building in which he angrily described the shooting as "an attack on democracy."

    The shooting caused the mayor to cancel an appearance at a meeting of the Republican National Committee at the Waldorf-Astoria in Midtown, where officials are planning the party's 2004 presidential convention in New York.

    The gunfire more than a dozen shots in quick succession erupted at 2:08 p.m. in the Council's crowded mahogany-paneled chamber on the second floor of City Hall, where members were just minutes away from beginning a meeting.

    The Council had just taken care of the ceremonial events it holds before each meeting.

    The main session was about to start. The principal item on the agenda was a bill that would set the city on its way to building 20 public toilets. Councilman Davis, a former police officer who led a community group called Love Yourself: Stop the Violence, had planned to introduce a resolution trying "to prevent violence in the workplace."

    Then Mr. Askew drew a .40-caliber silver-colored pistol and started shooting, the police and witnesses said.

    "It was like one of those things that played out in slow motion," said Dan Luhmann, a photographer for the Council. "Initially it was just an absolute kind of stillness. It was probably only a second. And then all hell broke loose."

    David Yassky, a Brooklyn councilman, said: "It was a couple of minutes before the Council was going to start. And then a shot rang out from the balcony. I looked up and I saw somebody shooting downward, pointing his gun to the floor."

    Arielle Altman, 21, a college senior whose father works for the Council, said she was in the balcony when she saw three men sit down at the end of her row. She now knows that two of them were Mr. Davis and Mr. Askew, she said. A few minutes later the two men got up and walked by her. When they got to the end of the row, she said, one man shot the other from behind.

    "It looked like they were walking out," said Ms. Altman, who was sitting so close that her ears were ringing for 15 minutes after the shooting. Witnesses said Mr. Askew continued to shoot Mr. Davis even after he fell to the ground. Mr. Davis was shot in the torso six or seven times.

    As pandemonium broke out, Police Officer Richard B. Burt, 34, who is assigned to City Hall and was temporarily filling in as a member of the detail that protects City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, acted. Officer Burt, who was standing on the floor of the chamber, drew his service pistol and fired it six times into the balcony, killing Mr. Askew, the police said. His action drew praise from city officials.

    "I have always thought of Officer Burt as a friendly guy who was doing a tough job," Mayor Bloomberg said. "Now I will think of him as a hero."

    Council members who were preparing for the meeting ducked under their desks for cover, and a group of children visiting City Hall were rushed into Mayor Bloomberg's office for safety. Within minutes, police officers carrying rifles and wearing helmets were running up the marble steps in the building's rotunda behind bulletproof shields. Soon after, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly arrived on the scene.

    Mr. Davis and Mr. Askew were taken out of the building on stretchers to a pair of ambulances waiting at the steps of City Hall. Mr. Davis's suit was open, and medics pumped his chest as they transported him. Both men were both brought to New York University Downtown Hospital a few blocks away, where they were pronounced dead. While the gun had been legally purchased out of state, Mr. Askew did not have a permit for it in New York, law enforcement officials said last night.

    Mr. Davis had a reputation as a maverick; he was one of the few Council members who voted against the property tax increase. But he was well liked by colleagues. He carried a licensed handgun but did not draw it yesterday, the police said.

    The gunman, Mr. Askew, had described himself as a real estate developer. This summer he filed papers with the city's Campaign Finance Board indicating that he planned to challenge Mr. Davis for his Council seat.

    Late yesterday morning Mr. Askew complained to the F.B.I. that Mr. Davis had been harassing him, law enforcement officials said. Shortly after that, at midday, Mr. Askew showed up at Mr. Davis's office and asked if he could accompany him to the Council meeting, Mr. Davis's aides said. Mr. Davis obliged.

    The two men appeared to be on friendly terms when they entered City Hall at 1:44 p.m., several witnesses said. City Councilman Charles Barron of Brooklyn said he saw Mr. Davis enter the building with another man shortly before he was killed.

    "James said, `This is a guy who was once against me, and now he's with me,' " Mr. Barron recalled. "And he took my hand, and he had a very intense handshake, and James said, `Don't worry. He used to be in the military.' "

    Mayor Bloomberg labored to assure people that the city was safe. After the shooting, he held three news briefings, met with members of the City Council and visited Mr. Davis's family with Speaker Miller.

    "I've had some very tough days in my life and some tough days in City Hall, but I don't think I've ever had as tough a day in 61 years as today," Mr. Bloomberg said later in the afternoon. "Somebody who was an elected official in the city of New York has been killed, and they've been killed right here in City Hall."

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  3. #3

    Default Shooting Spree at City Hall

    July 24, 2003

    Tragedy at City Hall

    The fatal City Hall shooting yesterday of James Davis, a member of the New York City Council from Brooklyn, appears to have been the result of personal enmity the gunman was a would-be political opponent who was himself shot dead by a security officer. At first, however, it was impossible for anyone to know that the violence that occurred right in the Council chambers was so contained. The building was evacuated, East River bridges closed and subway lines rerouted. The sight of flashing lights, sniffer dogs and officers in flak jackets, so near to ground zero, gave everyone the same chilling thought one Mayor Michael Bloomberg countered right away. This was not an act of terror, he said.

    It was nonetheless terrifying that this incident could happen in one of the nation's most security-conscious locations, in a public place populated with police and checkpoints including metal detectors. While the killings had nothing to do with terrorism, they were a reminder that after nearly two years, it's getting harder for the city and the nation to maintain high levels of vigilance.

    City Hall has retained much of the clubby atmosphere that is common wherever legislators meet, despite all the additional security precautions brought in during the tenure of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Mr. Davis's assailant accompanied him into the building, earning an unofficial "he's with me" status. That allowed the gunman the same free pass through security that police had long been giving to elected officials. That kind of special exemption was always a mistake. Forcing Mayor Bloomberg to go through the same security as deliverymen is an important reminder of the seriousness of the whole process. We're glad that Mr. Bloomberg and Council Speaker Gifford Miller now are guaranteeing that police will impose checks on everyone entering the building no matter what rank or how famous the face.

    Yesterday's shooting was first of all a tragedy for the friends and family of Mr. Davis, a former policeman who was carving a place for himself in the Council as a populist. He was a community activist who campaigned against gun violence but was licensed to carry a gun on the day he died, he was said to be armed, too.

    For the rest of New York, the news that violence had visited the well-fortified City Hall was a grim reminder that any security plan no matter how well thought out and no matter how heavy the presence of police and equipment is only as strong as its enforcement.

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  4. #4

    Default Shooting Spree at City Hall

    How did this happen???? Quite frankly, I'm a little worried now that some idiot opened fire at City Hall in NYC. What's next, Penn Station? The ESB? The Capitol??? (And I have spent enough time in both NYC and DC to know that New York does a much better job w/ security, so if it can happen in NY.......)

  5. #5

    Default Shooting Spree at City Hall

    In a tragic irony, a city councilmember said that James Davis was to introduce a bill concerning workplace violence.

    The mayor said that from now on, everyone, including the police commissioner and himself would go through the same security checks as visitors.

    Note: Airline pilots and flight attendants do not pass through magnetometers.

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