Several people shot at New York’s Empire State Building

PHOTO: New York City police approach the body of the alleged shooter lying on a sidewalk near the Empire State Building in New York following a shooting, Aug. 24, 2012.

A laid-off clothing designer killed his former manager before being shot dead by police in New York on Friday after a workplace dispute escalated into a shootout near the Empire State Building.

At least nine people were wounded during the attack, in one of the most crowded areas of Manhattan. Some of those injured may have been shot by police as they shot at the gunman, who pointed his handgun at them but is understood not to have fired…..continue.

The shooting led to panic in the tourist-heavy streets around the Empire State Building, with fears that another mass shooting was under way. However, it became clear that it was not a random attack when police revealed that the victim had been targeted.
Police named the suspect as Jeffrey Johnson, a 58-year-old who had been employed for six years as a designer of women’s accessories at Hazan Imports, a business that operates from premises in midtown near the Empire State Building.

New York police commissioner Raymond Kelly said during a press conference that he was laid off as part of a downsizing at the firm. Kelly described the gunman as a “disgruntled former employee” who came back to confront his former manager. “He shot and killed the former co-worker, striking him three times,” Kelly said.

After shooting his manager, named by city officials as 41-year-old Steven Ercolino, the gunman began walking towards the Empire State Building. He was trailed by a construction worker who managed to alert two police officers on patrol at the building.
Johnson moved to draw his weapon, a .45 caliber handgun, as the officers approached. There are conflicting reports as to what happened next. “The [police] tape clearly shows that the gunman had the gun out, and was trying to kill the officers,” New York city mayor Michael Bloomberg said. However, other officials at the scene reportedly said the man had not fired on police.
The two police officers discharged 14 rounds, killing Johnson outside the entrance to the Empire State Building. At least nine other people were injured in the shooting – four women and five men. All were taken to city hospitals with gunshot wounds, but none is believed to be in a life-threatening condition.
Erica Solar, a mother of two who works as a receptionist on 37th St, was among those shot. Solar was on her way to Dunkin’ Donuts when she was hit in the back of the leg. Her friend Christopher Collins found Solar lying on the street as he got off a bus on his way to work.
“She was basically in shock. She didn’t know if she had gotten stabbed or if she had gotten shot, but she just knew she was bleeding, and I was just there trying to keep her calm until paramedics arrived,” Collins said.
“It was chaotic. Everybody was running, cops were there immediately,” Collins said. Solar was taken to Bellevue hospital, about a mile from the Empire State Building.
Solar’s brother, Louis Lleras, said that “at first she didn’t realize she was shot”.
“She heard the shots ring, she started running across the street … then she noticed that she was shot, so she just fell down,” Lleras said.
Media Rosario, 43, from Brooklyn, was shot in the back of her leg on her way to work at 34th St and Fifth Ave. She was also taken to Bellevue. “She said that everything happened so fast, she saw people running, and when she turned around to see what happened, she was already shot,” said her sister-in-law, Auselis Rosario.
The shooting took place at about 9am as the Manhattan streets were filled with rush-hour traffic, employees going to work and tourists. Kay Hudson, who works on 33rd St, said she was “three feet” from one of those shot, but survived unharmed. She told the Guardian she heard the noise of a gun and saw a man fall to the ground.
I heard a noise, like seven pops go off,” Hudson said. “When I turned around, I saw the man fall and he had a helmet in his hand. I just ran, and I told everyone to run.”
Some people at the scene appeared to be tourists, Hudson said, and did not understand her shouts. “I just started to run, and by the time I got to the side street, I looked back to make sure that it was shots that I heard. I looked back and I saw the man lying on the ground.”
“He definitely was not moving. His hands were spread out,” she said.
Hudson sprinted east along 33rd St towards her office, where television news reports confirmed what she had just seen. “I can’t even process,” she said. “I had to walk back to be sure that I saw what I was seeing,” she said.
Adrianne Lapar, 27, who works in the Empire State Building, said: “People started running, saying someone had a gun, so I just ran the other way. I was scared.”
Dahlia Anister, 33, who works at an office nearby, said: “I heard the gunshots. It was like pop, pop, pop. It was definitely in a bunch.”
Police shut down nearby streets as forensic teams checked the gunman’s body. The FBI were quick to confirm that the attack was not an act of terrorism.
New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg – a vocal critic of America’s lax firearm controls – said: “Once again, there are an awful lot of guns out there.” He added that although homicides in New York were on the decline, “we are not immune to the problem of gun violence”.
Kelly said the incident was not related to the Empire State Building itself. In 1997, a gunman opened fire on the 86th floor observation deck, killing one tourist and wounding six others.
City officials were quick to praise the response by police and the construction worker who followed Johnson from the site of the initial shooting.
Bloomberg said: “We all use the word ‘hero’ – he did what he should have done.” The mayor added: “He saw something, he said something” – the phrase has become the backbone of efforts to get New York residents to be vigilant ever since the September 11 attacks. The actions of both the worker and police officers may have prevented further injuries, Bloomberg and Kelly said.
The incident puts gun crime in America back in the spotlight. As with other high-profile summer shootings in the US – at a movie theatre in Colorado on July 20 and at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin earlier this month – it is thought unlikely that Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will address the issue in an election year

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  1. The American government really needs to do something about their lax gun laws. Why should firearms be so easy to acquire by just anybody?

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