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Empire State Building shooting: 2 dead, 9 wounded, surveillance video released

August 24, 2012 12:44:18 AM PDT
A laid-off worker shot a former colleague to death outside the Empire State Building, and then was killed in a shootout with police on Friday.

Police identified the gunman as 53-year-old Jeffrey Johnson of Manhattan. He was a women's accessories designer at Hazan Imports, a store across the street from the Empire State Building, but was laid off last year during downsizing.

Police say at about 9 a.m., Johnson approached the coworker at 10 West 33rd St. and without saying a word, shot him five times with a .45-caliber pistol, even standing over him after he dropped to the ground to continue to shoot.

A law enforcement official identified the victim as Steven Ercolino, an account executive at Hazan Import.

Johnson, who was wearing a suit and tie and carrying a black bag, then walked about half a block eastbound to Fifth Avenue. A construction worker who saw what happened followed the suspect and alerted two police officers in the area. When the officers approached, police say Johnson pulled out his gun and extended his arm, causing the officers to open fire.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said during a news conference that police gunfire may have wounded bystanders. Nine other people were injured, but those injuries are not believed to be life threatening, officials said. Some have already been released from hospitals.

"We have on tape, the perpetrator pulled his gun out and tried to shoot at the cops. Whether he got off any bullets or not, to be determined. How many he shot earlier, to be determined. We do know the cops fired back, the tape clearly shows the guy holding a gun out and trying to kill the police officers," Bloomberg said.

One witness said Johnson fired, but NYPD detectives say the suspect may have been shot before he could fire. Police say there have been no ballistics recovered so far that indicates that he fired at the officers.

One officer fired seven times, the other fired nine times. Police believe some of the bullet fragments hit nearby flower plots and then struck the victims. The injured bystanders were hit in the lower extremities, which police say would be consistent with the ricochet ballistics.

The FBI confirmed that the incident was not terrorism. Bloomberg said everything happened outside the Empire State Building and had no connection to the landmark skyscraper.

Police say Johnson's gun was purchased legally in Sarasota, Fla., in 1991, but he unlawfully brought it to New York City. Police also said they had an incident on record between Johnson and Ercolino from 2011. Both men had walked into NYPD's Midtown South Precinct and made cross complaints against each other, alleging altercations by the other. There was no evidence of injuries, but they went to court to seek restraining orders.

Authorities say it was not unusual for Johnson to show up at the office after he was laid off. He was apparently known to show up periodically to collect his insurance benefits.


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