Outing threat may have sparked shooting
July 25 2003 12:00 AM ET
Just hours before 31-year-old Othniel Boaz Askew killed New York City councilman James E. Davis in the city council chamber Wednesday, a man identifying himself as Askew called the FBI and complained that Davis had threatened to out him as a gay man, The New York Times reports. "Late this morning, a caller who identified himself as Askew alleged that he was the victim of harassment by Councilman Davis in connection with the upcoming primary election. He expressed no intention to cause harm to Councilman Davis," FBI spokesman James Margolin said on Wednesday. Askew was himself fatally shot by authorities just moments after he shot Davis. Davis, by many accounts, was one of the strongest supporters of gay rights on the city council.
The Times reports that Askew, who has been described as a political rival of Davis's, may also have shared a mentor-protege relationship with the councilman. Askew apparently moved to Brooklyn last year and immediately got involved in local politics, filing papers this year to run for city council, challenging Davis. But according to staff members in Davis's office, Askew failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot and, about three weeks ago, had asked Davis for a job.
"The councilman began to think of himself as something of a mentor to him," Davis spokeswoman Amyre Loomis told the Times, adding that Askew had asked Davis to write a letter for him saying that Askew had a promising future in public service.
But according to the complaint made to the FBI Wednesday morning, Askew and Davis had taken a walk together in a Brooklyn park earlier this month. While there, Davis apparently told Askew that he had done a background check that revealed that Askew was gay and that the information would be released in a race between the two men.
Askew and Davis met again Wednesday afternoon. And, according to surveillance tape at City Hall, Askew was able to get into the city council chambers without going through security because he was a guest of the councilman's. That, in turn, allowed him to get a gun into the chamber, and he used it to kill Davis.