Indianapolis Star

2 Shot in New York Council Chambers

July 23, 2003
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- A gunman opened fire during a hearing inside the City Council chambers this afternoon, leaving two victims sprawled side by side on a second-floor balcony. Police were searching for the shooter.

One council member was shot twice in the chest, according to a police officer at the scene.

At least a dozen shots echoed across the second floor of the landmark lower Manhattan building, sending people diving for cover beneath their desks as the hall's rotunda filled with screams. Mayor Michael Bloomberg was in his office but was not harmed, said his spokesman, Edward Skyler.

"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 on the balcony inside the second-floor council chambers when the gunfire began after 2 p.m, according to eyewitnesses.

"It was panic, It was bedlam it was chaos. People had stunned, shocked looks on their faces and didn't know where to go," Councilman Charles Barron told CNN.

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

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

Police officers, including some in riot gear, were seen running across the plaza in front of the building once the shooting stopped. The entrances and exits to the building were sealed off.

Security, particularly since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, was stepped up at City Hall. Metal detectors were installed at either end of the barricades, along with metal barricades. It was not immediately clear how anyone got a gun inside.