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Vigil outside slain councilman's home

Davis became active in politics after the 1991 Crown Heights riots.
Davis became active in politics after the 1991 Crown Heights riots.

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A Brooklyn native and former police officer, Councilman James E. Davis, D-Brooklyn, has been involved in public policy since 1983, when he was falsely arrested (and, he said, beaten) for stealing a car that was, in fact, his mother's.

After graduating from Pace University, Davis became a corrections officer at New York's Rikers Island. In 1991 he went to work for the Transit Police, then transferred to the NYPD in 1993. Later that same year, he went to work as a social science instructor at the police academy.

Davis headed "LOVE YOURSELF" Stop the Violence, a non-profit organization he founded in 1990. Among other efforts, the group in 1994 convinced Toys 'R' Us to stop selling realistic-looking toy guns. Davis was elected to the New York City Council in November 2001.

Sources: New York City Council, "LOVE YOURSELF" Stop the Violence
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- About 150 people gathered outside the Brooklyn home of murdered Councilman James E. Davis Wednesday evening, a few hours after he was gunned down inside City Hall.

Davis was slain by his political rival, Othniel Askew, on the balcony of the city council chamber, authorities said. Askew was gunned down by a police officer in the chamber. (Full story)

At Davis' home, a banner announcing the September 9 Democratic primary, which Davis had been running in, was strung between two posts on either side of the door. In front of the entrance, mourners had placed flowers, wreathes and candles.

Some in the crowd chanted: "Love yourself. Stop the violence."

"Who do we love?" a woman in the crowd shouted. "James E. Davis!" the crowd, many of them children, responded.

Rev. Dr. Peter Bramble, whose St. Mark Episcopalian Church was across the street, described Davis as a great force. Davis, a 41-year-old former police officer, was known as a crusader against urban violence. (Davis profile)

In 1990, Davis founded a non-profit organization called "LOVE YOURSELF" Stop the Violence. The group is dedicated to halting gun crime, teen pregnancy and drug use.

Late in the afternoon, a police van pulled up to the duplex owned by Thelma Davis, the victim's mother, who got out in tears and went inside.

Neighbor Jestina Irby, 69, said she has known the Davis family since the 1960s and called the city councilman "a good kid."

"I've been knowing him since he was a baby," said the retired transport worker, her voice cracking.

"I don't understand it. James was a nice fellow, but he trusted too many people," she said.

Davis' staff members and colleagues also voiced shock and sorrow after the shooting.

"This is a terrible tragic day for City Council, for City Hall, and for the people of the city of New York," said City Council President Gifford Miller.

"To lose James Davis -- who is a passionate outspoken advocate on behalf of his district, Brooklyn, young people, and the city at large -- is a terrible loss for the City Council," said Miller.

"He was a king among princes," press aide Amyre Loomis said. "He was passionate about politics."

Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields called Davis "one of the more active, vocal and involved council members."

Davis was elected to represent the council's 35th district, in Brooklyn, in 2001. He became active in politics after the Crown Heights riots in 1991, and his district includes that Brooklyn neighborhood.

"This is a tremendous loss and certainly my prayers and thoughts go out to his family as we wait for more information," Fields said.

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