New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg presents New York Police Officer Richard Burt with an NYPD Gold Shield for his actions during the fatal shooting of Councilman James Davis. Mayor Bloomberg said that Officer Burt put himself in harm’s way and thus saved countless lives. Richard Burt was also promoted to Detective.

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This is an archived article published in July 2003
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg
remembers Councilman James Davis
By news agencies

On 23 July 2003, City Councilman James Davis of Brooklyn was assassinated by an angry and deeply troubled individual in the balcony of the Council Chambers at City Hall. It was an assault on our democracy, and an appalling loss for Councilman Davis's family. Our deepest condolences go out to his family, colleagues and constituents.

The day after the shooting, I visited the Councilman's district office in Fort Greene, and I was tremendously impressed with the huge display there of flowers, candles and written expressions of sorrow from those he represented-Brooklyn residents of every race. It was a moving testament to the positive impact that Councilman Davis had made in his still-young life.

A former New York City police officer, Councilman Davis's political mantra was "stop the violence." On the day he perished, an officer he served with in the ranks of the NYPD-Police Officer Richard Burt-showed extraordinary bravery and skill in stopping the violence that took James Davis before it destroyed anyone else.

Davis's assassin struck just as a full Council meeting was about to begin; the chambers were filled with the Council's members, as well as scores of spectators and guests, including many small children. When the gunfire erupted, an understandably chaotic situation ensued. In the midst of that turbulence, Officer Burt, a nine-year veteran, calmly and heroically put himself in harm's way. He fired his gun from the Council floor-a distance of some 45 feet -mortally wounding the councilman's assailant without harming anyone else. Although Councilman Davis's killer had discharged the entire magazine of his gun, it was later discovered that he had brought more bullets with him, so Officer Burt almost surely prevented further bloodshed on that terrible day. For his quick and courageous action, and because we're confident he'll continue to distinguish himself in protecting our city, he has received a well-deserved promotion to the rank of detective.

Unaware that his killer had marked him for death, Councilman Davis actually escorted him into City Hall as a guest, and neither man passed through the metal detectors that are posted outside the building. For many years, we have extended that courtesy to all elected officials, but from now on and without exception, everyone who works at or visits City Hall, including me, will go through the metal detectors.

This was a crime committed in the chamber where New York City's laws are debated and passed; it was a blow struck in the very heart of our government. It's an ongoing struggle to find the right balance between operating the open government the people are entitled to while we also protect everyone's safety. Nothing has highlighted that struggle more than this shocking episode. At City Hall, we'll find and maintain that balance, so we can continue to do our jobs-working for the people of the greatest in the world.

Mayor Bloomberg condemns gun carrying
after fatal shooting in New York City Hall

James Davis, a New York City Councilman representing the 35th District in Brooklyn, was shot by a gunman in the city’s Council Chamber. The shooting took place at around two o’clock on 23 July 2003.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg confirmed the identity of the gunman as Othniel Askew, a political rival of James Davis. Following the shooting of Mr Davis, Othniel Askew was killed by a police bodyguard for the Council Speaker, the Mayor added.

According to press reports Othniel Askew entered the Chamber as a guest of Mr Davis. Indeed, video security footage showed the two men entering City Hall together. They did not walk through metal detectors installed after 9/11. City Hall staff confirmed that elected officials routinely by-pass the metal detectors. This breach of security apparently Othniel Askew to bring a Smith & Wesson handgun into the Council Chamber. According to some reports, the gunman also hid some extra bullets in his socks. Witnesses told reporters that they saw the wo men talking on a balcony in the City Hall's second-floor rotunda where a council meeting was to take place.

Mayor Bloomberg told the press there was no sign of a verbal or physical altercation between them before the shots rang out. Authorities said Askew fired shots at Davis on the balcony and never appeared to fire down below at the rest of the city council members.

"The city council meeting was going along normally when all of a sudden there were screams and shots," the Mayor added.

James Davis was shot in the torso. The Councilman was known to carry a licensed gun, but was unable to draw the weapon, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelley told reporters.

Witnesses in the council chamber gave a harrowing account of chaos and mayhem, with council members and their staff ducking for cover. The main floor of the chamber seats the city's 51 council members and their staff, while the balcony allows the public to observe the meetings.

After the shooting Mayor Bloomberg, who was somewhere else in the building at the time of the incident, said that, with immediate effect, all visitors to City Hall including elected officials would have to pass through metal detectors. "I don't know why people carry guns. Guns kill people," the Mayor added.

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