NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Police say a former worker shot and killed the foreman of a construction site Thursday morning on Manhattan’s west side.

It happened just after 7 a.m. on 59th Street between 11th and 12th avenues. When police first received calls of shots fired, they went into active shooter mode, 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reported.

“During the course of the search, we realized that we were actually dealing with a workplace violence situation,” said NYPD Deputy Chief Philip Rivera.

Police said the suspect, who had been recently fired, returned to the site and shot the 37-year-old foreman several times.

Carpenter Robert Pagan ran upstairs to protect his friends after hearing gunshots, on his way passing the suspect, 44-year-old Sam Perry, CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported.

“As I was walking upstairs I had asked him if he brought a gun to the job,” Pagan said. “He told me no calmly, I gave him a hug and proceeded to go downstairs.”

Pagan thought he was only joking with his former colleague but then he found his foreman, 37-year-old Chris Sayers, lying dead on the 37th floor.

“Face down, blood everywhere, brains on the floors,” he said. “Sad. Just sad.”

Police spent the next hour and a half searching for the suspect in the high-rise construction site. He was later found dead on the fifth floor of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.

They say a weapon was also recovered.

Police said the suspect was fired by the foreman two days ago.

“Talking to some of the workers so far, they say he was a bit of a hothead and he was dismissed about two days ago,” NYPD Deputy Chief Christopher McCormack said.

Pagan said the suspect was fired for talking back to the foreman, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported.

“Just talking back, being angry,” he said. “They got along, that’s the funny thing. They got along really well, it’s just, he was just hothead.”

Police are still trying to determine how he got into the building.

Meanwhile, construction crews are mourning a boss who they say typically got along with everyone.

“Kids, wife and now they have no father, no husband,” Pagan said. “It’s surreal — it really is.”

Police said the suspect had three prior arrests, including two for assault and one for burglary. The investigation is ongoing.

Sayers’ family on Long Island asked for privacy to mourn.

In Far Rockaway, police searched Perry’s home while a neighbor looked after his dog. He told CBS2 Perry dropped the pet off on Thursday morning.

“He said, cause if I can’t get no one to watch him, I’m gonna shoot him and bury him in my yard,” he said,.

That neighbor also used to work with Perry. Like many of his coworkers, he said Perry was a hothead, but is still in disbelief.

“He was always respectful and courteous to his foremans,” he said. “Even when he got yelled at.”

Police are looking through surveillance cameras on the first floor to find out how Perry got inside and upstairs.