December 18, 2003

Officer Is Honored for City Hall Heroism

Staff Reporter of the Sun

COOL HEAD Police Officer Richard Burt, center, with Police Officer Andrew Koehler at yesterday’s ‘Finest of the Finest’ awards ceremony. At left is Burt’s wife, Yvette.  

Once a hero, twice honored.

Police Officer Richard Burt was assigned to bodyguard detail for City Council Speaker Gifford Miller last July when a gunman opened fire in the balcony of the crowded City Council chamber.

Othniel Askew had just shot and killed Council Member James Davis and threatened to kill more of the guests honoring a Puerto Rican Day Parade celebration. Council members dove under their desks and preparations began to whisk Mayor Bloomberg out of City Hall.

Once he made sure Mr. Miller was safe, Mr. Burt calmly drew his service weapon and got off six shots, downing the assassin forever.

For his heroism that day by preventing more bloodshed,Officer Burt is now Detective Burt with a gold shield.

He was honored again yesterday by the Partrolmen’s Benevolent Association as the Police Department’s “Finest of The Finest” at a ceremonial luncheon held at Manhattan’s Water Club restaurant.

“I’m still not ready for all this attention, I was just doing my job,” Mr. Burt said over a dish of prime rib. “This all takes a lot of getting used to.”

He says he feels honored every time he meets someone who attended the function that fateful day.

“I see people who were there then from all walks of life. They approach me and say, ‘Thanks,’” he said. “That means a lot to me.”

PBA President Patrick Lynch, in presenting the award, praised Mr. Burt as truly heroic.

“We have stories of police officers facing down gunmen,” he said. “We have stories of police officers going into burning buildings to save lives. These police officers leave their homes every day not knowing if they will return to their families.

“Officer Burt and the others honored here today are the examples of the most amazing of the amazing — the Finest of the Finest, as we call them,” he said.

Mr. Burt was among 43 officers who received various honors yesterday, including one from Suffolk County.

Asked if he’s experienced any exciting assignments in new career as a detective, Mr. Burt repled: “I’m still with Speaker Miller. Doing my job.”