- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 24, 2003

NEW YORK — An aspiring political challenger yesterday shot and killed a City Council member, a vocal critic of urban violence, during a meeting inside City Hall.

A plainclothes New York Police Department detective then shot and killed the assailant.

Councilman James E. Davis, 41, was shot seven times in the chest and arms and was carried out of City Hall on a stretcher. He died later at New York University Hospital.

In a late-afternoon news conference, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said that Mr. Davis had entered City Hall and then the City Council chambers with a fellow Brooklyn politician identified as Othniel Askew, 31.

Mr. Bloomberg said that the two men went through the security booth but not the metal detector required for City Hall visitors.

“Apparently the City Council members and the mayor have not been going through the magnetometer the same way pilots and stewardesses don’t go through magnetometers at airports,” said Mr. Bloomberg, who was in his first-floor office at the time of the attack and was not harmed.

The mayor said tape from City Hall cameras showed Askew and Mr. Davis in conversation before they entered the building. Askew shot the councilman shortly after the City Council meeting began and then in turn was hit by a police officer who fired six shots at him from the chamber floor, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

Mr. Bloomberg said no motive for the killing was apparent, but that Askew had filed papers to run against Mr. Davis in a fall primary election. The mayor said the campaign might have sparked a dispute.

Davis spokeswoman Amyre Loomis said Mr. Davis and Askew were political opponents who had recently called a truce, and had met three times in recent weeks.

Councilman Charles Barron said he met the two men outside City Hall on their way inside, where Mr. Davis planned to introduce legislation on workplace violence.

Mr. Davis introduced Askew, telling Mr. Barron, “This is the guy who was once against me, but now he’s with me.”

Askew offered a firm handshake and an intense stare, Mr. Barron said.

FBI spokesman Joe Valiquette said last night that a man identifying himself as Askew called the FBI’s New York office three hours before the attack to complain about Mr. Davis’ conduct about the upcoming primary.

Commissioner Kelly said Askew died from multiple gunshot wounds but that it was not certain whether any were self-inflicted. A silver .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun was found at the scene. Four .40-caliber live shells from one of Askew’s socks also were recovered. Mr. Davis, who was licensed, was carrying a holstered handgun.

The two fatally wounded men were found lying side by side in the balcony overlooking the chambers.

Mr. Bloomberg said that City Hall officials now must go through the metal detectors. “The speaker and I have decided that effective immediately he and I and everybody else will go through the magnetometers,” he said.

Employees and police officers had not been required to pass through metal detectors.

A former policeman and corrections officer, Mr. Davis was elected to City Council in 2001. He was regarded as a maverick in Brooklyn Democratic politics and was an outspoken critic of urban violence.

In the initial confusion after the attack, the NYPD closed Brooklyn Bridge and busy subway stops in the area as officers fanned out into Lower Manhattan to search for what they thought was an assailant on the loose. At the time, Commissioner Kelly said, police were looking for a man in a blue blazer or blue shirt. Other police sources said the assailant was thought to be a light-skinned black man or a Hispanic.

Information gradually emerged that the gunman was dead. Both Mr. Davis and Askew were black.

Outside at a raucous news conference, Jeffrey Davis, the councilman’s brother, said repeatedly, “The system killed my brother. The same way it killed Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.”

He did not elaborate or answer questions about his brother’s personal life, but added: “Who did it? You all did it. Every white racist person did it. Every black racist person did it.”

Witnesses said about 100 people were on the council floor at 2:08 p.m. EDT, when the shooting occurred.

“I looked up at the balcony, and I saw an individual walk across the balcony with a gun, and he was pointing at something in the balcony and started to fire,” Councilman Tony Avella said. “At that point, everyone started to realize what was going on.

“I did see him walk across with the gun pointed. I didn’t hear him say anything. The shots rang out across the chamber so loud you couldn’t hear anything but that,” he added.

“It was impossible to dislike James because he was such a great guy,” said Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. “Nobody I know was his enemy.”

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