The CCNY Campus Kidnapping and the Specter of Sean Bell


Today the Daily News‘s front page describes the “CAMPUS HOSTAGE DRAMA” that occurred at CCNY’s Harlem campus yesterday afternoon. Kirk Hanley was allegedly rebuffed by a female student whom he asked out on a date. Hanley followed the woman to the financial aid office where she worked and took another student in the office hostage at gunpoint. Hanley allegedly told the cops, “I want to die like Sean Bell.” Police subdued Hanley within five minutes of arriving on the scene, but noted that the suspect had several suicide notes and a journal with him when he was taken into custody. The weapon turned out to be a pellet gun.

The Daily News snagged a quote from Elaishun Martin, the hostage in the situation. This is probably why the story made the paper’s front page. Martin told the tabloid, “He said if anybody moves he’ll kill me.” Martin confirmed that Hanley mentioned Sean Bell during the ordeal. While the print edition uses “KIDNAP ON CAMPUS” as the internal headline, the story on the website goes for the more sensational, “Lovelorn loony sparks gun scare panic on City College campus.” Obviously that’s a little too long for the dead-tree version.

The Post stretches the Bell connection by placing the story next to an interview with the head of the Detectives Endowment Association, in which he says that Al Sharpton mislead the public on what happened during the Bell shooting. Accompanying the story is a photo of acquitted Det. Michael Oliver on his way to desk duty at the 13th precinct in Manhattan. The picture looks like it could be a random celebrity sighting from Page Six, as Oliver clutches his cup of coffee and is dressed in jeans and a black shirt. And it’s very bizarre to have this photo juxtaposed with the headline “‘I want to die like Bell'” and the requisite reproduction of the “50 SHOTS” front page of the Post.