View From The Middle
Not only were the constituents in the district of City Councilman James Davis tragically saddened by his murder at City Hall last week, but many residents of Canarsie with whom he came in contact as a police officer assigned to the 69th Precinct were also affected.
I remember him very well, having covered a number of stories in which he was involved as one of the local precinct’s youth officers.
In that capacity, Davis was assigned to work with Police Officer Jim Johnson, who had been the lone officer in that position for years. Together, they made quite a team during 2001, addressing the gang situation here, talking to parents, handling the Explorers group out of the precinct and, well, making a difference.
When Davis decided to run for City Council, the post he held at the local precinct was the last one he held as a member of the force and Johnson was left as a lone ranger youth officer again, doing his usual spectacular job.
It was with sadness Johnson saw his "partner" leave the post here and go to what turned out to be the greener pastures of political office.
It was with deeper sadness, of course, that John-son thought of Davis last week. They were friends, as well as working partners, and it was fitting that, after the tragedy, the NYPD assigned Johnson to guard Davis’ family during the horrible time of grief and sorrow that followed.
Of course, because of Davis’ association with Canarsie, we clamored last week for some photos of him that we took while he was here, coming up with a few showing him with civic associations and youth groups — Explorers, to be precise. He had a special penchant for "getting to" youngsters, winning them over almost immediately with his ready smile and outgoing demeanor. That was the way he was. He would always make the first move when meeting people, being the first to reach out to shake your hand.
I remember a specific occasion where I worked closely with Davis and Johnson: The murder of Jelani Isaac, a 16-year-old who was shot to death on Thanksgiving eve 2001 after he’d gone to the store to pick up a baking pan for his mother so they might have a nice Thanksgiving dinner the next day. A pair of robbers who tried to steal a chain from around his neck and then shot him to death confronted him and his friends.
Johnson and Davis knew Jelani, who had been a member of the 69 Precinct Explorers and were among the first to visit with the slain boy’s mother to console her.
"We didn’t want to impose on the poor woman’s grief at the time," Johnson later said, "but we wanted Mrs. Isaacs to know we were there for her."
Both officers attended the teenager’s funeral service and afterwards, along with local politicians and other activists, were at the forefront in trying to get financial support for the boy’s mother. It was a nice gesture on the part of all concerned, including John-son and Davis. They didn’t have to do anything for the slain youth’s family. They just thought it might be a nice gesture.
That’s the way Johnson is.
That’s the way Davis was. We remember these things.