Wednesday | July 23, 2003
NYC Councilman killed in City Hall
By Steve Gilliard
2 Killed as Gunman Opens Fire at N.Y. City Council Chambers
Shots were fired in City Hall this afternoon, killing Councilman James E. Davis and another man, city officials said. .
The shots were fired in the balcony of the City Council chamber, which is on the second floor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
Mr. Davis, 41, is a former New York City police officer who was a founder of Love Yourself, Stop the Violence, a community non-profit organization. The group's Web site said Mr. Davis, a black man, joined the police force after being assaulted by two white police officers.
Witnesses say the assailant opened fire from the second floor balcony of the City Council shortly after 2 p.m. during a routine hearing. Police sources say Davis was struck twice in the chest, and later died at Beekman Downtown Hospital
This is absolutely stunning. City Hall had stepped up security at least two years before 9/11 and had blocked off access. Even in the 1980's metal detectors were used at the doors of City Hall, along with armed police officers. The security regime after 9/11 made streetside searches and heavily armed police extremely common.
Police Headquarters is about a block away, M-4 armed US Marshalls are two blocks away on the steps of the Federal Courthouse, and M-16 armed National Guardsmen patrol the subway stations and the entrances. This is probably the most heavily protected area of the city and has been since the terrorism trials of the mid-1990's.
Davis, as news reports say, is a former cop and under New York law and accepted custom, could be armed. But, as a rule, ex-cops who work in public buildings as other than security do not usually walk around armed. What the police think happen is that he and the shooter, who reportedly came in to City Hall together, avoided the metal detector and went to the City Council chambers on the second floor. New York's City Hall is a fairly small building, so the shots were heard clearly.
News reports claim that the shooter is a political rival who was going to challenge him in the next Council election. However, given that New York has term limits, the use of violence to remove a political opponent seems bizarre. Each member has an eight year limit, two terms, and thus can be challenged fairly frequently. It also doesn't take massive amounts to raise money to run for the part-time City Council either.
What is amazing, besides the desperation of someone to bring a gun into that area of the city, is that something could spark a shooting of a Councilman.
Davis became known for opposing the recent property tax hike, which many considered showboating, and his noises about building steam for a future mayoral campaign. He had been punished by the Council leadership for that stand, which gained him some attention.
At 41, he had many years to build a political base and seek higher office. There had been some controversy about his run for public office as he was still a police officer at the time and state law prevents public employees from serving in office while employed. He was also known for getting Toys 'R Us to stop selling realistic toy weapons. Which has been popular New York for a few years and was part of his history of anti-violence campaigns.Posted July 23, 2003 02:48 PM