Empire State Shooting Leaves 2 Dead
A recently fired store worker shot a former colleague to death and then randomly opened fired on others near the Empire State Building.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says some victims may have been hit by police bullets.
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New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly identified the gunman as Jeffrey Johnson, a 53 year old man, was employed for more than 6 years at Hazan Imports, as a designer of women’s accessories and was laid off during a downsizing.
Bloomberg says he does not have a prior criminal record.
Surveillance video footage shows Johnson reaching into a bag, pulling out a .45-caliber pistol and pointing it at officers, Kelly said. The officers drew their weapons and started firing, killing Johnson, Kelly said.
Kelly initially said that Johnson fired on officers, but police said later they were trying to determine whether Johnson actually fired shots. “These officers … had absolutely no choice,” Kelly said. “This individual took a gun out very close to them and perhaps fired at them.”
The two officers fired a total of 14 rounds at Johnson, Kelly said. Bloomberg said some of the nine wounded may have been shot by police in the mayhem. Johnson’s semi-automatic weapon was equipped to fire at least eight rounds; at least one round was left in the clip, police said. Another loaded magazine was in his briefcase.
“HE WAS A GOOD SON”
The victim is identified as Steven Ercolino, a vice president at Hazan Import. Ercolino’s profile on the business networking site Linkedin identified him as a vice president of sales at Hazan Import Corp. It said he was a graduate of the State University of New York at Oneonta
A man who answered the phone at Ercolino’s home in Warwick, northwest of Manhattan, said he was too distraught to talk. “He was a good son, that’s all I can say, said the man, who didn’t give his name
“pop, pop, pop, pop, one shot after the other.”
No one is allowed inside the building as the investigation into the shooting begins.
The gunshots rang out on the Fifth Avenue side of the building at around 9 a.m., when pedestrians packed sidewalks and merchants were opening their shops. “People were yelling `Get down! Get down!”, said Marc Engel, an accountant who was on a bus in the area when he heard the shots. “It took about 15 seconds, a lot of `pop, pop, pop, pop, one shot after the other.”
Afterward, he saw the sidewalks littered with the wounded, including one person “dripping enough blood to leave a stream.”
“I was sitting outside and I heard 3 shots first and three people running towards Park Avenue,” a witness told WCBS TV.
Several victims were taken away on stretchers but are suffering from non-life threatening injuries according to NY1. One other victim, a woman, has reportedly died.
CNN reports witnesses say the incident started when a man chased another man out of the building and pulled out what looks like a sawed off shotgun and starting shooting. An elevator operator pursued the gunman while calling for help. Police came on scene immediately and shot at the gunman 3 times.
The shooting is not an act of terrorism and did not take place in an area frequented by terrorists.
Many streets around the Empire State Building are closed including Fifth Avenue.
Aliyah Imam tells Fox 5 News that she was standing at a red light when a woman standing next to her fell to the ground. She says the woman was hit in the hip. She says the gunman was “shooting indiscriminately at people.”
Another woman tells the NY Post she was walking to a nearby Dunkin Donuts, saw blood and realized she had been shot. Another man in her ambulance had been shot in the butt.
The New York Post reports up to 10 people have been wounded. The Post says an argument between co-workers outside prompted the shooting. Some bodies were found inside the lobby.
Before the shooting, Mayor Micheal Bloomberg was warning against guns on the street on his weekly radio program.
A fire department spokesman says it received a call about the shooting just after at 9 a.m. Friday and that emergency units were on the scene within minutes.
The shooting occurred at 34th Street and Fifth Avenue.
In 1997, a gunman opened fire on the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building, killing one tourist and wounding six others before fatally shooting himself.
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The Associated Press, Leanne Vuksanic, Diana Gebbia, Joshua Frishman & Melissa Katz contributed to this report.