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Two Dead in Shooting Near Empire State Building

Discussion in 'The Americas' started by Devil, Aug 25, 2012.

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  1. Devil

    Devil Captain SENIOR MEMBER

    Jul 7, 2012
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    NEW YORK — A disgruntled worker who had just gunned down a former colleague was fatally shot by police officers in rush hour gunfire that injured nine bystanders outside of the Empire State Building, authorities said.
    effrey Johnson, 58, who had been laid off by apparel company Hazan Import Corp. a year ago, shot a 41-year-old former co-worker three times with a semiautomatic handgun at 10 West 33rd St. around 9 a.m., killing him, said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
    Live Updates

    Get the latest details on the shooting
    Metropolis: Suspect Remembered as Lonely Neighbor
    Witnesses Describe Scene of Chaos
    Follow @WSJNY for live updates

    A relative identified the victim as Steven Ercolino, 41 years old, an employee at Hazan Import Corp.

    "He was an incredible family man, loved his family," said a woman who identified herself as his sister-in-law, Andrea. Mr. Ercolino did not have children, she said, but was the "best uncle to my children." She described him as generous, fun loving and compassionate, and said he loved his work selling handbags.
    "He had an incredible life ahead of him," she said.

    As Mr. Johnson fled east on West 33rd Street, dressed in a suit and tie with his gun inside a black bag under his arm, a construction worker followed him and alerted nearby police, Mr. Kelly said. He was shot dead just north of the Empire State Building entrance, according to Mr. Kelly.
    Officials said some of the injured may have been shot by police firing at Mr. Johnson, who lives in Manhattan and worked at the company for six years.

    "We have on tape the perpetrator pulled his gun out, tried to shoot at the cops. Whether he got off any shots or not is to be determined," Mayor Bloomberg said. "We do know that cops fired back and the tape clearly shows the guy has the gun out and fires it at police officers."

    The rush hour shooting near one of the city's most famous landmarks comes on the heels of several other public shooting sprees, including one inside a Colorado movie theater last month and another at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin several weeks ago.
    The dispute between Mr. Johnson and Mr. Ercolino had escalated once before, said an official with the building where Hazan is located. Before Mr. Johnson was let go from Hazan, he and Mr. Ercolino engaged in a shoving match inside an elevator, he said.

    "They had a fight," said the official, who said he watched the security feed of the incident several times, adding that it appeared Mr. Johnson shoved first. "Steve picked that guy up by the throat and put him against the wall." Police could not immediately say if charges were filed in the incident.

    The superintendent of Mr. Johnson's East 82nd Street building, Guillermo Suarez, 72, described him as a lonely man who wore a brown suit every day and rarely had visitors.

    "At 8:30 a.m. every single day he goes to McDonald's, he comes back, he goes upstairs and that's the end of that one," he said.

    Mr. Suarez saw Mr. Johnson leave Friday morning. "I was standing right here. He said, 'Good morning,'" he recalled. "I didn't see him come back. ... When the cops called and told me this guy is the shooter, I said, 'You got to be kidding me.'"

    Neighbor Gisela Casella, 72 years old, said Mr. Johnson was a polite and quiet man who "loved his cats."

    "I would see him every morning all dressed up," she said. "I thought he went to work everyday."

    Nine wounded bystanders were taken to Weill Cornell Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital Center for treatment. All had non-life threatening injuries, according to a Fire Department spokesman. By Friday afternoon, two had been discharged from Weill Cornell.

    Robert Asika, 23, who sells tickets for the observation deck of the Empire State Building, said he was struck in the arm as police officers took down the gunman.

    "One of the cops shot me in the arm, you know, and I fell," Mr. Asika said, adding, "I mean, I guess stuff happens. I didn't feel bad about it, it just happened you know."

    Louis Lleras, 32, was visiting his sister Erica Solar, 30, whom he identified as one of the victims of the shooting. She was being treated at Bellevue early Friday afternoon.

    Ms. Solar work as a receptionist on 37th Street, he said, and was on her way to get a cup of coffee at Dunkin Donuts when she heard shots. Mr. Lleras said she took a few steps before realizing she had been shot in the back of her left knee.

    "They don't know if she was shot by the cops or the gunman," Mr. Lleras said. "She just heard shots and fell to the ground afterwards."

    "She's in good shape, she just wants to go home," he added. " The bullets are still there. They don't know whether to take it out or leave it there."

    Ms. Solar's neighbor, Christopher Collins, 44, said he was on his way to work when he saw the mother of two bleeding on the ground with paper towels on her leg and stayed with her until an ambulance arrived.

    "You never expect to see a friend of yours bleeding on the street," he said. "She was just nervous," he said, saying she was asking questions like, "Am I going to lose my leg? Am I going to die?"

    Auselis Rosario said her sister-in-law, Media Rosario, 43 years old, was getting off the train and crossing the street at 34th Street and 5th Avenue when she got shot in the back of her right leg.

    She said her sister-in-law saw people running and turned around to see what happened when she was shot. "It's crazy, you leave your kids, your family, and you never know when you're coming back," she said.

    Witness Darrin Deleuil, 46, said he saw the shooter, wearing a suit and fedora, shoot one victim point blank on 33rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue. "He looked like an old gangster," he said. "He looked real calm to me. He made sure he didn't miss him."

    Chris Watkins, 32, was waiting for his wife, who was completing an errand inside a nearby building, when he saw a man running through the crowd carrying a handgun and wearing a backpack.

    "He was shooting toward the crowd, not toward anyone in particular," said Mr. Watkins, who ran into a nearby Duane Reade. He later saw four people lying in the intersection of 34th St. and Fifth Ave.
    Rebecca Fox, 27, was on her way to work and saw four people who had been shot.

    "I saw the man dead on the ground in front of the Empire State Building, then I saw the other man down 33rd Street. The man who the shooter had been chasing," said Ms. Fox, who works at Kick Design, a brand agency.

    She described the first few minutes after the shooting as frenetic, with police running down the street and taping off the crime scene. "It was a scene out of 'C.S.I.,'" said Ms. Fox, referencing the popular television show. "But it was real, you know?"

    Jill Greenwood, an account supervisor at Prosek Partners in the Empire State Building, said she heard several gun shots beginning at 9:04 a.m. Friday. In the minutes afterward, people inside the building began streaming out because an echo from the shots made it sound like they were coming from inside the building.

    Later, she was told by building security the shooting took place outside the front of the entrance to the building's observation deck at 34th Street and 5th Avenue.
    "We heard these gunshots, it sounded like fireworks. So, we both got up and went to the window and looked down," said Ms. Greenwood, a 30-year-old New York resident.

    "I got out of a cab right there five minutes before it happened," she added.

    Mike Chang, 33 years old, an employee of Krux, an online data company with offices in the Empire State Building, said he was walking off the subway toward the building at around 9:03 a.m. when he saw people running toward him yelling "gun."

    "Then I saw Empire State Building employees running toward me and I thought it was real," Mr. Chang said.

    He walked around the building to the 34th Street entrance and went in and up to his offices on the 42nd floor. "I thought it would be safer in the office than on the street," he said.

    A spokeswoman for the Empire State Building Company said that the building is fully operational while the NYPD investigates the incident.

    Two Shot Dead Near Empire State Building - WSJ.com
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