Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

New York City Council STATED MEETING - July 23, 2003

New York City Council Stated Meeting Report

Every two weeks the New York City Council meets for its Stated Meeting to introduce and pass legislation. As a regular feature, Searchlight covers these meetings and posts a summary of the bills passed.

STATED MEETING - July 23, 2003

Meeting Summary:

Shooting at City Hall
New York City Councilmember James E. Davis was shot and killed at 2:08 p.m. on July 23, the victim of a gunman who opened fire inside the City Council chambers during the council's regularly scheduled meeting. Davis was shot by a political rival, Othniel Askew, who accompanied the council member to City Hall. Askew was shot by a plainclothes police officer and died later.

Askew, 31, reportedly entered City Hall as a guest with Davis and was able to bypass the metal detectors because he was with the council member. Askew and Davis met earlier in the day in Brooklyn then proceeded to City Hall, where Davis introduced Askew as a former rival turned friend. The two men went to the balcony before the beginning of the council meeting, where, according to police officials, Askew fired a 40-caliber handgun multiple times, killing Davis. A police officer on the floor of the council chambers then fired six shots at Askew, hitting him several times. Davis, a retired police officer, carries a handgun, but did not draw or fire his gun.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was in his office at the time of the shooting, was unharmed.

Askew was planning on running for City Council against Davis this fall, had filed with the city's Campaign Finance Board, and had reportedly circulated petitions, but did not file them in time to get on the ballot. According to reports, Askew phoned the New York City Federal Bureau of Investigation office yesterday morning to report that Davis had been harassing him in connection with the upcoming primary election.

James Davis, 41, who was elected to Brooklyn's 35th district council seat in 2001, was a former police officer, and the chair of Stop the Violence, a non-profit organization, which he founded in 1990. Davis also fought against youth violence, child abuse, domestic violence and police brutality, winning widespread media attention for his efforts. In 1994, he helped stop the sale of "look-alike" toy guns following the shooting of two children by police officers who mistook their toys for real weapons. He also campaigned successfully to have MTV change its broadcasting policies, arguing that the network's former policies resulted in the broadcasting of excessively violent images and lyrics during the daytime. A graduate of Pace University, he also served as a Democratic district leader, working to register voters in neglected communities.

In an essay Davis wrote for Gotham Gazette, he recounted how he became politically involved: "One morning in 1983, I was in front of my house sitting in my mother's car. Suddenly, I was approached by two white police officers who accused me of stealing the car. The officers dragged me from the car at gunpoint, slammed my head and body repeatedly against the car and pointed their guns inches away from my head. I was handcuffed and taken to the police station. No charges were ever filed, but that day, I suffered not only bruises, but also the humiliation of false arrest. Since that day, I have tried to turn that experience into something positive."

James E. Davis message board

For an archive of past meetings and council votes, visit Gotham Gazette's Searchlight.



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