Empire State Building shooting leaves at least 9 people injured; gunman Jeffrey Johnson was fired from job, opened fire on co-workers

5:32 PM, Aug 24, 2012   |    comments
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Video: Two Killed, Bystanders Wounded in NY Shooting

Video: RAW VIDEO: Amateur Video Captures NY Shooting Scene

New York police officers work the scene near the Empire State Building after a shooting Aug. 24, 2012.

NEW YORK (CBS NEWS) - A man laid off about a year ago went to his former workplace Friday morning and shot a co-worker in the face, killing him, before a shootout broke out between him and New York police officers near the Empire State Building, injuring nine, the police said.

The gunman was shot and killed by two officers. New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said during a Friday news conference that the people wounded in the shootout suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Some of those injured may have been accidentally shot by the officers, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

"This is a terrible tragedy, and there's no doubt that the situation would have been even more tragic but for some extraordinary acts of heroism," Bloomberg said.

Kelly identified the gunman as Jeffrey Johnson, who was laid off as a designer of women's accessories from Hazan Import after working there for six years. Kelly also said Johnson was 53 but later corrected himself, saying Johnson was actually 58, CBS station WCBS-TV reports.

Kelly only identified the co-worker as a 41-year-old man. A law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed to The Associated Press that the victim is Steven Ercolino, a vice president at Hazan Import.

A man who answered the phone at Ercolino's parents' home in the city's suburbs said "he was a good son."

CBS News senior correspondent John Miller reports that Johnson and the victim had each filed harassment complaints against each other during the past year. It's unclear whether those complaints were filed with police or in civil court.

Police sources told WCBS-TV that Johnson was seen in video footage before the shooting dressed in a suit and tie, appearing to be waiting for his victim outside the office building where Hazan is located. At 9:03 a.m., Johnson shot his former co-worker three times outside his former workplace, Kelly said.

With his .45 caliber handgun hidden in black bag, Johnson fled, Kelly said. A construction worker who witnessed the shooting followed Johnson and alerted two officers who were on patrol outside the Empire State Building.

As the officers approached Johnson, he pulled his handgun from the bag and started shooting, Kelly said. The officers fired back, killing Johnson.

Some of the victims were reportedly found inside the lobby of the Empire State Building while some were found on the street.

The FBI said that there is "no initial connection to terrorism."

Witnesses described a chaotic scene.

"I was sitting outside, and I heard three shots first and I saw three people running up to Park Avenue way from the Empire State Building," one woman told WCBS-TV. "Then we heard it again and it was like 10 to 15 shots at one time. Then we saw the whole block, like over 50 people running to Park Avenue."

"I was pulling some boxes out of my truck and right in front of my truck I heard about five gunshots," another witness told CBS station WINS-AM. "I turned around to the left and I saw a man lying vertically with blood coming out of his head."

"I just asked one of the folks who was running by me what had happened and they said 'someone was shot,'" Sid Dinsay, a former New York City Office of Emergency Management official, told CBS station WCBS-AM. "Take a few more steps down the block and there was a deceased person on the sidewalk, apparently the victim of gunshots and lifeless and just lying there."

Friday's shooting is the third high-profile incident of the summer, following the July 20 massacre at a Denver-area movie theater that killed 12 people and injured 58 others, and a mass shooting at a Wisconsin Sikh temple Aug. 5 that left seven people dead, including the gunman with ties to a white supremacist group.

The gunfire came less than two weeks after a knife-wielding man was shot dead by police near another tourist-saturated part of the city. Authorities say police shot 51-year-old Darrius Kennedy after he lunged at officers with a kitchen knife Aug. 12. Kennedy was smoking marijuana in Times Square on a Saturday afternoon when officers first approached, police said. It was the beginning of an encounter that would stretch for seven crowded blocks.

In 1997, a gunman opened fire on the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building, killing one tourist and wounding six others before fatally shooting himself.


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