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St. Albans cop who shot City Hall assassin promoted

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By Courtney Dentch

Police Officer Richard Burt was only filling in on City Council Speaker Gifford Miller’s security detail last week when shots echoed through the Council Chambers during the attack that left Councilman James Davis (D-Brooklyn) and his assassin dead.

As everyone around him dived under desks and tables for cover, Burt, a 34-year-old St. Albans resident, drew his gun, took careful aim and fired, striking the shooter six times in the early afternoon on July 23.

“It was chaos in the Council chamber, only there was one person who kept his head and did his job,” Miller said at a news conference last Thursday.

Burt was promoted to the rank of detective and presented with a Police Department Gold Shield the next day as a reward for his cool head and steady shot during the shooting.

Burt, who lives in St. Albans with his wife and three children, joined the Police Department in 1994. He is a member of an intelligence team at City Hall, but on the day of the shooting he was temporarily assigned to Miller’s security detail while a fellow officer took vacation.

“By putting himself in harm’s way during the chaotic and tragic events yesterday, Officer Burt ended a terrible situation and saved countless lives,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at the news conference. “All of us who were in City Hall and the entire city owe him their gratitude.”

Burt was on the floor of the Council Chambers just after 2 p.m. when Othniel Boaz Askew opened fire on Davis while both were in the balcony. Standing about 45 feet away and a floor below, Burt pulled the trigger and fired seven bullets, about six of which struck Askew, Bloomberg said.

“If he hadn’t been so quick on his feet and such a good shot, I shudder to think what would have happened,” the mayor said.

Davis, who was shot in the torso, and Askew, who was shot in the chest and arms, both were pronounced dead at New York Downtown Hospital, police said.

“Police Officer Burt did an outstanding job by taking immediate and decisive action that saved many lives,” said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. “He put his life at risk in order to protect others and by doing so represents the best of the New York City Police Department.”

But at last week’s promotion ceremony, Burt had a more modest view.

“I don’t consider myself a hero,” Burt said. “I did what I was trained to do. I did my job.”

While Askew’s attack on Davis appeared to be an isolated incident motivated by a political rivalry, extra ammunition was found in Askew’s socks, leaving the mayor to wonder what else could have happened, he said.

“He used up all the bullets in his gun, but he had more bullets in his sock,” Bloomberg said of Askew. “Who knows what he could have done. Officer Burt can go home knowing he may have averted further carnage.”

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 7:23 pm, October 10, 2011
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