New York City Police Department officials identified the man who opened fire Friday morning at the Empire State Building before he was shot and killed by cops as 58-year-old Jeffrey Johnson.
Johnson, who lived in Manhattan, was laid off from his job as a women’s accessory designer at Hazan Imports, located inside the Empire State Building, about a year ago. He had worked for the company for six years.
In a press conference at the crime scene, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, joined by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said Johnson, dressed in a gray suit and carrying a briefcase, approached a former co-worker outside the Empire State Building just after 9 a.m. and fatally shot him in the head.
“In a dispute in front of the building, he produced a pistol and struck at close range, striking a 41-year-old man in the head,” Kelly said.
Authorities identified the victim as Steve Ercolino. Police said Johnson and Ercolino had a long-running dispute and each had filed complaints against the other, although the exact nature of those complaints is not clear.
Irene Timan, who worked with Ercolino, said she was walking shoulder to shoulder with him when Johnson appeared from behind a white van, according to the New York Times.
“I saw him pull a gun out from his jacket, and I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, he’s going to shoot him’ — and I wanted to turn and push Steve out of the way,” Timan told the Times. “I knew it, I just knew it was going to happen. But it was too late. Steve screamed, Jeff shot him, and I just turned and ran.”
Police approached Johnson after a construction worker notified two officers about him. Johnson allegedly pointed his weapon at the officers and fired, and they returned several shots, striking and killing him.
Mayor Bloomberg said, during the chaos, several other people were injured in the crossfire, possibly in shots fired by police.
Eight were injured at the scene, in addition to the victim and the shooter. They were transported to Bellevue Hospital and New York Presbyterian Hospital. They are all expected to recover.
“I ask that everyone keep the victims in their prayers,” Bloomberg said this morning. “This is a terrible tragedy.”
Those who were near the Empire State Building when the shooting happened were shocked.
“I heard all of the sirens going by while I was in class,”said Francine Oliveira, 33, who takes college courses a half-block away from the scene. “I asked the teacher what was going on, and she said it was normal, not to worry about it. It wasn’t until some of my classmates started getting text messages from friends did we find out what happened.”
In the wake of several mass shootings this year, many were unnerved by the incident, although police said it did not appear to be a terrorist attack.
“It’s very confusing, and unsettling,” said Manhattan resident Eric Moriarty, 30. “I don’t like walking around wondering when somebody is going to lose it. It makes me very uncomfortable. I walk by the Empire State Building every day; I’ve been in the Heartland Brewery a thousand times. This really felt close to home for me.”
Roads surrounding the popular tourist attraction were reopened in the afternoon.
(Photo via Instragram: ryanstryin)
Another shooting victim outside the Empire State Building.
(Photos by Miles Dixon)
Police block the entrance to the Empire State Building.
Miles Dixon contributed reporting.