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Political Figure Fatally Shot in N.Y. Office

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A former Democratic state senator and congressional candidate who was running for a post on the Democratic State Committee in next month’s primary election was fatally shot Thursday at his campaign headquarters in Brooklyn.

Vander Beatty, a one-time political powerhouse in Brooklyn’s predominantly black Bedford-Stuyvesant section who fell from political grace in an election fraud scandal, was shot once in the neck and once in the arm about an hour after midnight, police said. He died 20 minutes after being taken to Brooklyn Jewish Hospital.

Beatty, 49, was in his campaign office in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn when an unidentified male shot him and fled in a blue Oldsmobile, authorities said. No motive for the crime was immediately apparent, they said.

In an unrelated death across town, an assistant district attorney was killed in a hail of gunfire from a passing car as he shopped inside a food store near the Bronx County Courthouse, where he worked.

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Sean Healy, 30, was shot once in the head by gunmen who fired more than a half-dozen bullets into the store at around 11 a.m., police said. Michael Philbin, chief of Bronx detectives, said that Healy was not the target of the drive-by shooting but “happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Beatty served in the New York Legislature as an assemblyman and senator from 1970 to 1982, when he stepped down to make an ill-fated run for the congressional seat then being vacated by longtime lawmaker Rep. Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman to serve in Congress.

Beatty was defeated in the Democratic primary by Major Owens but attempted to force a new election by forging signatures on more than 2,800 voter registration cards. Owens went on to win the seat in the general election and still holds it.

Beatty was later convicted of forgery and election fraud in connection with the voter registration scheme and served 19 months in jail. He was released in September of 1985.

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“He had a substantial power base when he was in office,” said a Democratic political activist in Brooklyn who asked to remain unidentified. “One would probably think of him as an old-fashioned ward heeler. I would categorize him as a political moderate.”

After years of relative political inactivity, Beatty was attempting a comeback this year by contending for Democratic state committeeman from the 57th Assembly District, a racially and ethnically mixed area of Brooklyn.

The slayings of Beatty and Healy, the Bronx prosecutor, were the latest in a mounting wave of killings that has swept over New York this year. Homicides jumped 25% in the first half of 1990 to a record high of 1,051.

Mayor David N. Dinkins, who has campaigned recently for gun control, said at a news conference to announce Beatty’s murder: “Somehow, we’re going to have to get the citizenry of this country outraged at the proliferation of guns.”

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Chisholm, the former congresswoman, was stunned by news of Beatty’s death. “Oh, God,” she said. “I just got the shock of my life.”

Healy was hit as he bent over to take a box of doughnuts from a shelf of the Mark Food Center, authorities said.

About 20 minutes before the shooting, police responded to a call to check out a dispute by four men who apparently were brandishing guns at a site down the street from the store. But when four patrol cars arrived they found nothing and left.

Authorities said it was unclear whether there was any connection between the reported dispute and the subsequent drive-by shooting in which Healy was slain.

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