Two die in shooting inside New York City Hall

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The Independent US

Violence struck at the political heart of New York yesterday when a candidate running for council opened fire inside City Hall, killing his political rival before he was shot dead by police.

James Davis, a 41-year-old councillor and campaigner against urban violence, was shot in the chest by Othniel Askew, 31, after they arrived together in the public gallery of the City Hall chamber. Both men were from Brooklyn.

As many as 20 shots were fired over three minutes, sending members scrambling under their desks for cover. The mayhem was reportedly brought to an end when an undercover detective shot Askew dead.

Police swarmed into the building and traffic in southern Manhattan was paralysed for hours after the incident. Questions were immediately being asked about how the man got a weapon into a building equipped with metal detectors at all entrances.

Mr Davis was a former police officer who had joined the force in 1993 after being beaten up by white detectives. He went on to set up an organisation dedicated to stopping violence in urban America.

Askew, 31, had filed papers to oppose Mr Davis in a three-way election in the autumn.

Witnesses suggested that Askew had bypassed security because he had arrived with Mr Davis. According to witnesses, Askew continued to fire until the officer shot him five times.

"It was so loud you couldn't hear the direction," said Dan Luhmann, a city council photographer. "At first, it was absolute stillness. Then people rushed out and it was chaotic."

Mr Davis, a black councillor, started a charitable organisation called Love Yourself Stop the Violence, dedicated to ending urban violence. He was known as an outspoken politician on the city's race relations.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said Mr Davis's death was "a tragic, terrible irony".

Michael Bloomberg, the New York Mayor, was in the building at the time of the incident but was unhurt. He said it was a "random act" and not a terror strike. "We do not know how somebody got a gun in the building. We have security. Obviously something broke down someplace."