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Politcal rivals Die in Ny City Hall Shooting
Political Rivals Die in NY City Hall Shooting
1 hour, 31 minutes ago Add Top Stories - Reuters to My Yahoo!
By Paul Thomasch
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York lawmaker dedicated to stamping out gun violence was shot dead during a City Hall Council meeting on Wednesday by a political rival who was then killed by police, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg said Othniel Askew pulled out a gun on the balcony of the second floor City Hall chamber, one of the most tightly guarded buildings in America's most populous city, shortly after 2 p.m. and killed councilman James Davis, 41, who was also on the balcony.
"Witnesses say they saw Askew standing over Davis, repeatedly firing shots," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said at a news briefing.
New York police then fatally shot Askew.
Askew, 31, had arrived at City Hall as Davis' guest and so did not have to pass through metal detectors, Bloomberg told a news briefing.
At the time of the shooting, Davis, a former police officer, was carrying a gun himself but did not have time to use it in his defense.
Askew was challenging Davis for the Democratic Party nomination in the upcoming city council elections. It was unclear what his motive might have been.
Bloomberg called the incident, "An attack on democracy."
"I've had some tough days in my life and in City Hall, but I don't think I've ever had a day as tough as this," said Bloomberg, who was in City Hall at the time of the shooting and 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 in lower Manhattan.
Davis, a black politician and church minister from Brooklyn, was a retired New York police officer and a former Rikers Island jail guard.
Almost a decade ago he founded "Love Yourself, Stop the Violence" -- a group dedicated to stopping violence in urban neighborhoods. One of his major achievements came in 1994, when he successfully lobbied the world's largest toy retailer Toys R Us to stop selling realistic-looking toy guns.
At the time of the shootings, the public gallery at City Hall was packed with children, in the chamber to hear a proclamation about an upcoming parade in the Bronx.
New York has been on highest security alert since the Sept. 11 attacks. Despite that, it was common practice at City Hall for security personnel to wave through familiar faces without checking them for weapons.
Bloomberg said that procedure would now change, with everybody having to enter the building through metal detectors, even the mayor himself.
"How could this have happened at City Hall? You tell me that," Davis's irate brother Jeffrey Davis said to reporters.
"The system killed my brother because my brother James Davis was not going to stop fighting the system," he said.
Council members described 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 discussion on whether to approve public pay toilets for a city notoriously devoid of such conveniences.