NYPD Commish Kelly Defends Use Of Force In Shooting Near Empire State Building
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Mourners were paying their respects Monday to the man shot and killed by a former co-worker near the Empire State Building on Friday.
Steven Ercolino, 41, grew up in the area, but lived in a new apartment building in Union City, N.J., with his long-time girlfriend Ivette Rivera, CBS 2’s Emily Smith reported.
A wake for Ercolino was being held until 9 p.m., and Tuesday from 5 to 9 p.m. at Ballard-Durand Funeral Home in White Plains.
His funeral will begin at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in White Plains.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said his officers acted appropriately when they opened fire on an armed suspect near the Empire State Building, injuring nine bystanders who got caught in the crossfire.
Two officers fired a total of 16 rounds at 58-year-old Jeffrey Johnson Friday morning after police said Johnson pulled out a gun and pointed it at the officers.
WCBS 880’s John Metaxas reports
Moments earlier, Johnson shot and killed Ercolino outside Hazan Imports on West 33rd Street, police said.
Johnson had worked at Hazan Imports for six years before being laid off about a year ago, authorities said. He and Ercolino had been in an ongoing dispute prior to the shooting.
The two had each filed complaints with police trading accusations of harassment, but 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,” said Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne.
Browne said that Johnson blamed Ercolino, an account executive in sales, for not selling enough of the items he created before being laid off.
Ercolino’s brother, Paul, was moving his son into Syracuse University when he heard his brother had been shot.
“I got the news from my father that this had happened,” he told WFAN’s Boomer and Carton on Monday. “The most beautiful day of my life became the most horrific day.”
WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane reports
After shooting Ercolino, Johnson put his gun into a bag and walked away, police said.
A construction worker who witnessed the shooting, Brian Dillon, followed Johnson and alerted two officers who were on patrol outside the Empire State Building, police said.
“I followed the man and he made the left up Fifth Avenue and I knew there was a police detail there,” Dillon said.
Surveillance video shows Dillon flagging down two officers and pointing to Johnson, who was wearing a gray suit and trying to blend in with the rush hour crowd.
That’s when Johnson pulled the gun from his bag and pointed it at the officers, police said.
When the officers fired at Johnson, nine bystanders were caught in the crossfire. The NYPD said they were all wounded by fragments or bullets fired by police. Two are still hospitalized.
Kelly said it was unfortunate that innocent people were injured, but said given the circumstances, “it was the appropriate action to take.”
“When you’re told that someone just killed someone around the corner and five seconds later, that person identified as being the shooter points a gun at you, the gun was loaded, we know it had two live rounds in it,” Kelly told WCBS 880’s John Metaxas. “Officers reacted appropriate, reacted reflexively and it was the appropriate action to take.”
The officers remain on desk duty as the department continues to gather information about the shooting.
Days after the tragedy, CBS 2’s Smith returned to the scene to get further reaction from witnesses.
“I did say a little prayer when I walked by. I used to work at 10 West 33rd,” said Tina Spagnola. “I said, ‘Oh my god, I know these guys.'”
“It was a little bit of chaos, a lot of people traumatized,” witness Omar Wright added.
“As a New Yorker it goes through my mind all the time that something like that could happen,” Patrick Murray said.
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