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Ny councilman dies gunfire { July 23 2003 }

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N.Y. Councilman Dies in City Hall Gunfire
Wednesday July 23, 2003 8:49 PM


Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - A gunman opened fire inside City Council chambers Wednesday afternoon during a routine meeting, killing a councilman and wounding another person on a second-floor balcony.

Brooklyn Councilman James Davis, a former police officer, died after being shot twice in the chest, a city official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Davis, an outspoken presence on the council, joined the police department in 1983 after he was allegedly beaten by two white officers.

In 1991, Davis, who is black, started ``Love Yourself Stop the Violence,'' a not-for-profit organization founded to address growing urban violence.

At least a dozen shots echoed across the second floor of the landmark lower Manhattan building, with people diving for cover one floor below as the hall's rotunda filled with screams. Police evacuated the building following the shooting.

``It was so loud you couldn't hear the direction,'' said City Council photographer Dan Luhmann. ``At first, it was absolute stillness. And then people rushed out and ducked under their desks and it was chaotic.''

The shooter was one of about 100 people in the balcony inside the second-floor council chambers when the gunfire began after 2 p.m, according to eyewitnesses.

``I looked up, and I saw someone shooting downward,'' said City Council member David Yassky. A security guard returned fire, according to Yassky.

Police sought a man in a blue suit in connection with the shooting, which continued for about three minutes.

Security, particularly since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, was amped up at City Hall. Metal detectors were installed at either end of the plaza outside the building, along with metal barricades.

The two victims were rushed from the front of the building on stretchers, loaded into ambulances and brought to New York University Downtown Hospital with gunshot wounds, said hospital spokeswoman Vanessa Warner.

An emergency worker said the two victims were lying side by side in the balcony, both with bullet wounds to the chest.

Police officers, including some in riot gear, were seen running across the plaza in front of the building once the shooting stopped. It was not immediately known if the shooter was captured.

The City Council was holding a meeting on Wednesday, but council member Peter Vallone Jr. said there was nothing controversial on the day's agenda.

The entrances and exits to the building were sealed off, and a stretcher was rushed inside by police in flak jackets.

Guardian Unlimited Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003

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