NYPD: Disgruntled Man Kills Former Co-Worker Near Empire State Building Before Cops Fatally Shoot Him
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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – An employee recently fired from his job shot and killed one of his co-workers before being shot and killed by police near the Empire State Building, authorities said Friday.
The suspect was identified as Jeffrey Johnson, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.
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The NYPD released dramatic footage Friday night of their confrontation with Johnson before they eventually shot and killed him. The video shows what Police Commissioner Ray Kelly stated earlier — that the suspect pulled his handgun from the bag and pointed it at officers before the deadly conclusion to the situation.
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At 9:03 a.m. Friday, Johnson walked into Hazan Imports at 10 West 33rd St., where he had worked for six years, and got into a dispute with his former co-worker before shooting him five times, the NYPD said.
“Johnson produced a pistol and fired at close range, striking his 41-year-old victim in the head,” Kelly said.
1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria with the details of the shooting
The victim, identified as Steven Ercolino, had been in an ongoing dispute with Johnson prior to the shooting, 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported.
The two had each filed complaints with police, trading accusations of harassment, D’Auria reported. However, there were no orders of protection between them.
“One said he threatened me and the other guy said ‘No, he threatened me.’ They made these complaints within 15 minutes of each other,” Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne told D’Auria.
Browne said that Johnson blamed Ercolino, an account executive in sales, for not selling enough of the items he created before being laid off.
After shooting Ercolino — with his handgun hidden in a black bag — Johnson then fled, police said.
CBS 2 has learned the suspect’s gun was a Star Arms .45-caliber Mega-Star. It was purchased in Sarasota, Fla., in 1991 under Jeffrey Johnson’s name. Johnson lived in Sarasota between 1983 and 1992.
It was possessed illegally in New York City, authorities said.
A construction worker who witnessed the shooting followed Johnson and alerted two officers who were on patrol outside the Empire State Building.
1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks with witnesses at the scene of the shooting
At least nine other people on the street were also shot, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it is unclear whether they were shot by the suspect or police.
“Some may have been shot accidentally by police officers who responded immediately,” Bloomberg said.
The NYPD said the two officers fired a total of 16 rounds. Johnson’s handgun was able to hold eight rounds and at least one round was still in the clip, police said. It’s possible he had a second magazine, CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported.
Police said it is unlikely that Johnson fired during the shootout. One witness told investigators that Johnson fired, but ballistics tests don’t back that up, authorities said.
“This is a terrible tragedy and there’s no doubt that the situation would’ve been even more tragic but for some extraordinary acts of heroism” Bloomberg said. “Every day our police officers put their lives on the line to protect us, they did so again today, responding immediately and they were joined by a number of civilians whose bravery and assistance probably also saved lives.”
Some of the injured were taken to Bellevue Hospital, while others were taken to New York-Presbyterian. Bloomberg said all are expected to survive. The wounded victims included five women and four men, ages 20 to 56, authorities said.
Three people who were brought to New York-Presbyterian were discharged earlier Friday afternoon. Three of the six people taken to Bellevue have also been released. Three others remain hospitalized, including one with high blood pressure.
None of the injuries are considered life-threatening.
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Louis Lleras told 1010 WINS’ Al Jones that his sister, Erica Solar, was shot in the back of her left knee as she was getting coffee on her way to work.
1010 WINS’ Al Jones reports from Bellevue Hospital
“She’s responsive, she just wants to go home,” Lleras said.
Witnesses described a chaotic scene.
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“I was sitting outside and I heard three shots first and I saw three people running up to Park Avenue away from the Empire State Building,” one woman told CBS 2. “Then we heard it again and it was like 10 to 15 shots at one time. Then we saw the whole block, like over 50 people running to Park Avenue.”
“I was pulling some boxes out of my truck and right in front of my truck I heard about five gunshots,” another witness told 1010 WINS. “I turned around to the left and I saw a man lying vertically with blood coming out of his head.”
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“I just asked one of the folks who was running by me what had happened and they said ‘someone was shot,'” former NYC Office of Emergency Management official Sid Dinsay, who was in the area when the shooting happened, told WCBS 880.
At the news conference Friday, Kelly said Johnson, who lived on the Upper East Side, had been laid off about a year ago from Hazan where he worked designing women’s accessories. The company had been downsizing.
Kelly said he misspoke during the news conference when he said Johnson was 53. He later corrected himself, saying Johnson was actually 58.
Johnson has no criminal record, police said.
He was wearing a suit and a tie at the time of the shooting, CBS 2 reported. Bloomberg said surveillance video captured the confrontation between the suspect and police.
According to Ercolino’s profile on Linkedin, he was the vice president of sales at Hazan Import Corp. and graduated from the State University of New York at Oneonta.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the shooting “senseless,” but praised the bravery of the NYPD, first responders and others at the scene.
“Today’s shooting near the Empire State Building is a tragedy for New York City and our entire state,” he said. “I commend members of the New York Police Department, as well as the first responders and civilians, who acted bravely and took swift action to save the lives of others and prevent this tragedy from becoming much worse. Our state has no tolerance for senseless acts of violence that harm our people, and we will do everything possible to ensure that law enforcement officials have the tools they need so residents of the city and tourists can enjoy everything New York City has to offer without fearing for their own safety and security.”
A spokesman for the Empire State Building issued a statement reassuring the public that the shooting had nothing to do with one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions.
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“This unfortunate event had nothing to do with the Empire State Building or with terrorism,” the statement said. “The Empire State Building and its Observatories remained open throughout, and continue to be open and operating. At no time was there any related activity in the building. We express our deepest concern for those innocents who were hurt and our appreciation to the NYPD.”
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