Born in the Bronx in 1966, Larry Davis was involved in several murders and robberies as a teenager before his highly publicized armed confrontation with the members of the New York police force in 1986. His arrest and subsequent trials drew national interest during a time of tense race relations between the police and minorities in New York City.
Convicted criminal. Born on May 28, 1966. In 1986, Larry Davis became notorious for his armed confrontation with the members of the New York police force. Some saw him as a folk hero of sorts, an African-American man standing up against the authorities. Others viewed his actions as those of a ruthless criminal.
Raised in the South Bronx, Davis was one of twelve or thirteen children (reports vary on the exact number). He dropped out of high school and reportedly worked as a mechanic and had aspirations of becoming a rapper. His first known arrest occurred in April 1983 when he was charged with grand larceny in connection with a robbery in Huntington, Long Island, that February. He was then charged with resisting arrest and possession of stolen property in June.
The following year, Davis pled guilty to possession of a hypodermic instrument in January, for which he paid $60 fine. He was arrested for petty larceny and burglary in February and again in October for possession of stolen property.
In March 1985, Davis pled guilty to petty larceny and was put on probation. He was found in violation of probation in January 1986. Sometime that same year, Davis became a father after his girlfriend Melody Fludd gave birth to their daughter, Larrima.
By that fall, Davis is believed to have stepped up his illegal activities, becoming involved in several robbery-murder cases. He became a suspect in several murders of alleged drug dealers, including the October 30th killings of Jesus Perez, Juan Rodriguez, Hector Figueroa, and Angel Castro in the Bronx.
On November 19, 1986, more than 20 police officers went to bring in Davis for questioning. He was hiding his sister's apartment. Refusing to surrender, Davis engaged in a gunfight with police. Six officers were wounded in the exchange of bullets and shotgun blasts. Davis escaped capture this time, and became the subject of an intensive manhunt, which lasted 17 days. He was finally taken into custody on December 6 after holding a family hostage in their apartment in the Twin Parks West housing project for numerous hours. As he was taken away from the scene, some of the project's residents cheered for him and chanted his name.
Before he caught, Davis had expressed concerns that the police were out to get him. He told his sister Regina Lewis that "If I'm caught in the street, the police are going to shoot me. But I am going to shoot them first," according to an article in The New York Times. Davis even attempted to escape from jail, a plan that was thwarted by corrections officers at the Rikers Island prison. He had tried to pass a map to two visitors, which was taken by the guards. In January 1987, Davis was indicted on nine counts of attempted murder and six weapons-related charges stemming from the November 19, 1986 shootout with police.
Throughout all of his trials, Davis and his lawyers claimed that he was the target of corrupt police officers. New York City saw a number of racially divisive incidents in mid-to-late 1980s between people of color and the police. One such incident took place in 1983 when Michael Stewart died in police custody, shortly after being arrested for painting graffiti. Then there was the infamous case of Bernhard Goetz, a white man who shot four black men on a subway because he believed that they were going to rob him. To some, Davis looked like a man standing up against the authorities and understood his need to protect himself against the police. "Incredibly enough, a lot of people respect him," rapper LL Cool J told The New York Times. "He did something brave. Whether it was right or wrong doesn't matter to a lot of people."
Davis was first tried for the four drug-related murders of October 30 in December 1987. Represented by lawyer William Kunstler, he maintained that he had been framed in the killings to justify the November 19 shootout. Davis claimed that the shootout was an effort to silence him for his knowledge of police corruption and drug dealing. When pressed to provide evidence to support his claim, he said that he would not do so unless he received immunity from prosecution.
Despite fingerprint and ballistic evidence, Davis was acquitted of all charges in his murder trial in March 1988. The course of his next trial did not run smoothly, with allegations of racism volleying back and forth between the defense and the prosecution. The first jury was dismissed because of the exclusion of a white juror by the defense. In June, both the defense and prosecution agreed to mistrial over jury selection. Davis was acquitted of the nine attempted murder charges in November, but he was convicted on the weapons charges.
The verdict outraged many law enforcement and government figures. One officer involved in the shootout, Thomas McCarren, was forced to retire because the injuries he sustained in the incident said "It was a racist verdict" because the jury consisted of ten African Americans and two people of Hispanic heritage. He explained that "a bunch of good honest police officers went to lock up Larry Davis because he had killed people, and not for anything else." New York mayor Ed Koch said, "I am shocked. Every policeman in New York—white, black, Hispanic or Asian—must be horrified."
On the other side of the case, Davis's lawyer told reporters that the trial results "sent out a message that white officers are not going to be able to shoot down black youths without a proper response," according to press reports.
Davis received a five to fifteen prison sentence on the weapons charges that December. His legal woes were far from over, however. He was tried for the murder of suspected drug dealer Victor Lagombra in 1989, but he was acquitted. Two years later, Davis was convicted of second-degree murder, felony murder, and attempted robbery for the August 5, 1986 murder of Bronx crack dealer Raymond Vizcaino. He was sentenced to 25 years to life for his crimes.
While in prison, Davis changed his name to Adam Abdul Hakeem. He was also involved in a number of incidents during his incarceration, receiving more than 70 disciplinary citations. In 2004, Davis became an inmate at the Shawangunk Correctional Facility. He was in the prison's yard with several other inmates on the evening of February 20 when he got into a fight with Luis Rosado, a convicted murderer. Brandishing a nine-inch shank, Rosado stabbed Davis numerous times. Davis succumbed to his injuries a short time later.
"He was a complex man who did many violent and bad things," explained attorney Ronald Kuby who had helped with Davis's defense. "When he became a symbol of resistance in New York in the 1980s, he became a black folk hero, an urban legend, because he fought back at a time when African Americans were being killed by white police officers," he told The New York Times.
After his death, his daughter Larrima Davis established the Larry Davis Foundation. His story was also featured on an episode of American Gangster, which aired on the BET cable network.
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