Shootout at the Empire State: Nine bystanders hit in crossfire as cops gun down sacked Manhattan fashion worker who killed bossJeffrey Johnson, 58, shot ex-boss Steven Ercolino, 41, three times outside former workplace near New York City skyscraper
Gunman was wearing smart grey suit and carrying briefcase
Ran off but was chased by construction worker who alerted police
When Johnson aimed gun at police, officer shot him deadNine injured in gunfire – some might have been hit by police bulletsNeighbour: Shooter was always alone but “he was the nicest guy”
Rush-hour ruckus took place in heart of New York City at the height of summer when area was swarming with tourists and workers

 

A disgruntled employee returned to his former workplace and fatally shot his ex-boss three times, sparking early-morning chaos and multiple other injuries near the Empire State Building this morning.

ButJeffrey Johnson, 58, was scuppered in his plans to escape after a construction worker saw the killing, chased him down the street and alerted police, who shot the gunman dead.

In the rush-hour ruckus, ninepassersby were injured, including four who suffered gunshot wounds. Twopeople – the gunman and his former boss – were killed.

Thedeadly dispute horrified tourists and workers swarming around 34th street and Fifth Avenue, a sight-seeing area that is experiencing its busiest few weeks of the year.

Victim: Gunman Jeffrey Johnson shot dead his ex-boss Steve Ercolino, pictured with a friend, outside his former workplace in New York City on Friday morning. Johnson was fired a year ago

Victim: Gunman Jeffrey Johnson shot dead his ex-boss Steve Ercolino, pictured with a friend, outside his former workplace in New York City on Friday morning. Johnson was fired a year ago

Steve Ercolino Steve Ercolino

Loss: Ercolino, pictured left with his nephew Matthew and right, was shot three times in the head at close range by Johnson. He was the vice president of clothing retailers, Hazan Imports

Johnson had visited clothing retailers Hazan Imports, where he had been an accessories designer for six years before he was fired as it downsized last year, at 9 a.m.

He was dressed in a smart grey suit and was carrying a briefcase, the New York Daily News reported.

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After his former boss, identified as 41-year-old Steven Ercolino, came out into the street to talk with him, Johnson shot him three times in the head and ran from the scene with his .45 caliber handgun hidden in a bag under his arm.

But he was followed a block north by a constructionworker who had witnessed the deadly shooting and alerted two police officers on duty outside the Empire State Building.

When the gunman pulled out his firearm and aimed at them, they shot him dead.

Gunman: Police surround the lifeless body of Johnson, who was wearing a grey suit, after he was shot dead by police. His handgun and briefcase can also be seen. MailOnline has pixelated his grisly injuries

Gunman: Police surround the lifeless body of Johnson, who was wearing a grey suit, after he was shot dead by police. His handgun and briefcase can also be seen. MailOnline has pixelated his grisly injuries

Killed: A body, believed to belong to the victim, is covered by a white sheet in the street

Killed: A body, believed to belong to the victim, is covered by a white sheet in the street

Murdered: Ercolino

Murdered: Ercolino”s body is wheeled to a medical examiner”s van after being killed outside his workplace

Swarm: People stand near a police line at the scene of the shooting outside the Empire State Building

Swarm: People stand near a police line at the scene of the shooting outside the Empire State Building

“THE SAFEST BIG CITY IN AMERICA”: GUN CRIME IN NEW YORK CITY

Mayor Bloomberg has often called New York the safest big city inAmerica, citing a declining crime rate that had the city on pacefor another record low number of homicides in 2012.

“The proof is in the numbers,” he said earlier this month. “Take a look crime here is down 36 per cent from where it was in 2001. Since 2001, the NYPD had cut crime citywide by 32 percent and made this the safest big city in the nation.”

But this incident is the second high-profile shooting incident in two weeks in New York”s tourist-heavy Midtown Manhattan.

On August 12, NYPD shot dead a man wielding a kitchen knife as he tried to run away through Saturday afternoon traffic and pedestrians in Times Square.

Bloomberg may have the city”s interests in mind amid fears these latest gun crimes could have a knock-on effect with tourism – but the statistics aren”t entirely honest.

One recent survey of law enforcement officers found that, in the last decade, over half the officers had observed the intentional misclassification ofserious crimes as petty offenses, suggesting it would make the city appear safer.

During the gunfire, four people were shot and a total of nine people were injured. The seven men and two women were whisked away to nearby hospitals, where some are undergoing surgery.

In a press conference near the scene, Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg said some of the nine people who were injured may have been hit or grazed by police gunfire.

The two officers fired a total of 14 rounds, AP reported. Johnson”s semi-automatic weaponwas equipped to fire at least eight rounds; at least one round was leftin the clip, police said.

It is “not likely” any of the victims will die, Commissioner Kelly said. None are children or elderly.

When asked if the construction worker was the hero, Mayor Bloomberg responded: “He did what he should have done. When he saw something, he said something and then turned it over to the professionals.”

Kelly and Bloomberg added that it wastoo early to say if Johnson was legally permitted to be carrying a gun,but early reports did not indicate he had a criminal record.

The victim, Steven Ercolino, was vicepresident of sales at Hazan Imports and had worked with the company fornearly seven years, according to his LinkedIn page.

Witnessesrecounted the chaotic scene at a time when store workers were opening their shops and tourists were filtering into the area.

Ruckus: The 9 a.m. incident, which was confined to a block, shut down roads in the heart of the city

Ruckus: The 9 a.m. incident, which was confined to a block, shut down roads in the heart of the city

Chaos: Four people were shot by the gunman. Here police stand by a body covered by a sheet

Chaos: Four people were shot by the gunman. Here police stand by a body covered by a sheet

Victim: A man lies on the ground outside the Empire State Building after being shot by a gunman shortly after 9 a.m. on Friday morning. Two people, including the gunman, died in the incident

Victim: A man lies on the ground outside the Empire State Building after being shot by a gunman shortly after 9 a.m. on Friday morning. Two people, including the gunman, died in the incident

“Peoplewere yelling “Get down! Get down!”, Marc Engel, an accountant on a nearby bus, said. “It took about 15 seconds, a lot of “pop, pop, pop, pop”, one shot after the other.”

“The gunshots were like a movie scene, everybody running in every direction and you can hear the gunshots everywhere not knowing where to run,” witness Suzy El Ayoubi added on Twitter.

Aliyah Imam told Fox 5 News that she wasstanding at a red light when a woman next to her fell to the ground after being hit in the hip. She claimed the gunman was “shooting indiscriminately at people”.

Witness Kay Hudson, who said she was three feet away when a man was shot, said she heard seven shots then saw a man carrying an orange helmet lying on the ground.

Hudson said she began shouting for people to run and started fleeing down 33rd Street.

Jill Greenwood, who works as an account supervisor at Prosek Partners in the Empire State Building, toldthe Wall Street Journal that she heard several gun shots beginning at 9:04 a.m.

Investigation: An NYPD officer looks through the pants on a body that is lying on 5th Avenue

Investigation: An NYPD officer looks through the pants on a body that is lying on 5th Avenue

Concerns: Seven men and two women were rushed to hospital after sustaining shot wounds or grazing

Concerns: Seven men and two women were rushed to hospital after sustaining shot wounds or grazing

Looking on: The shooting took place in the heart of the city, in an area teeming with tourists and workers

Looking on: The shooting took place in the heart of the city, in an area teeming with tourists and workers

She said that people inside the building began yelling because an echo from the shots made it sound likethe shooting was happening inside the building.

“We heard these gunshots, it sounded like fireworks. So, we both got up and went to the window and looked down,” Ms. Greenwood, 30, told the WSJ.

A Reddit user under the name of Titan413, said they were on a bus when they witnessed the shooting.

“At least four people got shot,” theywrote. “Two on the northwest side of the street, one Empire State Building ticket guy in the middle of the crosswalk, and someone on the southwest corner. That was terrifying.

“Atfirst I thought it was a truck going over one of those metal plates in the street, but then everyone on the bus got on the floor and people on the street started running.”

Route: The gunman ran a block north but was chased by a construction worker who alerted police

Route: The gunman ran a block north but was chased by a construction worker who alerted police

Details: Mayor Bloomberg, centre, and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, right, held a morning press conference near the scene and revealed the shooting was carried out by a disgruntled employee

Details: Mayor Bloomberg, centre, and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, right, held a morning press conference near the scene and revealed the shooting was carried out by a disgruntled employee

Search: Police officers guard the entrance the building where Johnson lived in New York

Search: Police officers guard the entrance the building where Johnson lived in New York

ECHOES OF AN EARLIER TRAGEDY

Before this incident, the last shooting at the Empire State Building took place on February 23, 1997, when Ali Abu Kamal, a 69-year-old Palestinian, opened fire on the observation deck.

The teacher rode up the elevator with a .380-caliber Beretta semi-automatic handgun hidden under his coat and killed a 27-year-old man and wounded six others before he fatally shot himself in the head.

Law officials ruled that the attack was premeditated as the gunman had visited the building the day before the shooting.

It came after Kamal”s once-wealthy existence suffered after bad investments.

But letterswere also found on his body – one in English and one in Arabic – which attacked America, France and England over their treatment of Palestinians, indicating it was politically motivated.

This latest incident near the tower is a reminder that despite tight security, the city remains can do little to protect itself against a crazed gunman.

Helicopter footage apparently showed the gunman lying on a stretcher in handcuffs, before officers placed a white sheet over his body.

After the shootings, the sidewalks were awash with blood. Ercolino”s body was carried away in a body bag.

Johnson”s neighbours said they were stunned to hear he was the shooter.

Gisela Casella, who lives in the sameUpper East Side building as Johnson, said he always dressed in a neat suit and was “so quiet but the nicest guy”.

She added that he was always alone but had two cats. One died last year, she said, and he looked stricken when he told her the news.

A fire department spokesman said it received a call about the shooting just after at 9 a.m. and that emergency units were on the scene within minutes. The FBI confirmed it was not terror related.

“What I want to do is assure everybody this is nothing to do with terrorism,” Bloomberg said at the press conference.

“ThankGod nobody else was seriously injured. Again, there”s an awful lot of guns out there,” the mayor, a staunch advocate of stricter gun laws, added.

Down: An image shows a victim lying on the ground. All the victims have been rushed to hospital

Down: An image shows a victim lying on the ground. All the victims have been rushed to hospital

Gunned down: A man, believed to be the victim, lies on the ground after being shot

Gunned down: A man, believed to be the victim, lies on the ground after being shot

Dispute: Early reports suggested the gunfire was a result of a dispute between coworkers

Dispute: Early reports suggested the gunfire was a result of a dispute between coworkers

Coincidentally,just minutes before the shooting, Bloomberg had warned about the dangers of “too many guns on the streets” on his weekly radio show.

While discussing proposed tougher gunlaws in Albany shortly before 9 a.m., he said: “The argument guns don’t kill people, people kill people is one of the most disingenuous things you can say.”

“It doestake a person to pull the trigger, but if they didn’t have the gun… We are the only developed country in the world with this problem,” the mayor continued.

The last shooting outside the iconic landmark took place on February 23 1997, when Ali AbuKamal, a 69-year-old Palestinian, opened fire on the observation deck.

The Palestinian teacher killed one 27-year-old man and wounded six others before he fatally shot himself in the head.

Busy: It is an area busy with tourists and workers. Police have closed down the roads as they investigate

Busy: It is an area busy with tourists and workers. Police have closed down the roads as they investigate

Fears: The 10 people believed to have been injured in the shooting have been taken to hospital

Fears: The 10 people believed to have been injured in the shooting have been taken to hospital

Scene: The shooting took place outside the Empire State Building, pictured, during rush hour

Scene: The shooting took place outside the Empire State Building, pictured, during rush hour

Law officials ruled that the attack was premeditated as the gunman had visited the building the day before the shooting.

Letters were found on his body – one in English and one in Arabic – which attacked America, France and England over their treatment of Palestinians.

Thislatest shooting comes less than two weeks after a knife-wielding man was shot dead by police near Times Square, another part of the city crammed with tourists.

Police shot 51-year-old Darrius Kennedy after he lunged at officers with a kitchen knife as horrified tourists looked on.