Chapel Hill Woman Injured In Empire State Building Shooting

A laid-off worker fatally shot a vice president from his former company outside the Empire State Building on Friday, setting off a chaotic showdown with police in front of one of the world's best-known landmarks. Officers killed the gunman, a women's accessories designer, and at least nine others were wounded, some by stray police gunfire, authorities said.

The wounded victims were five women and four men, aged 20 to 56, authorities said. All were from New York City, except a 35-year-old woman from Chapel Hill. They suffered graze wounds or other minor injuries.

The gunshots rang out on the Fifth Avenue side of the building at around 9 a.m., when pedestrians on their way to work packed sidewalks and merchants were opening their shops.

"People were yelling 'Get down! Get down!" said Marc Engel, an accountant who was on a bus in the area when he heard the shots. "It took about 15 seconds, a lot of pop, pop, pop, pop, one shot after the other."

Afterward, he saw the sidewalks littered with the wounded, including one person "dripping enough blood to leave a stream."

Wearing a suit and tie and carrying a briefcase, Jeffrey Johnson walked up to the vice president, Steven Ercolino, put a gun to his head and fired three times without saying a word, according to authorities and witnesses.

"Jeffrey just came from behind two cars, pulled out his gun, put it up to Steve's head and shot him," said Carol Timan, whose daughter, Irene, was walking to Hazan Imports at the time with Ercolino.

Johnson, 58, and Ercolino had traded accusations of harassment when Johnson worked there, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said; law enforcement officials said that Johnson had been angry that Ercolino wasn't promoting his products.

A construction worker who saw the shooting followed Johnson and alerted two police officers, a detail regularly assigned to patrol city landmarks like the 1,454-foot skyscraper since the 9/11 terror attacks, officials said.

There were conflicting accounts about whether Johnson fired at the police officers or just pointed the gun at them.

Kelly initially said the officers were fired upon, but later said police were investigating. Johnson can be seen on video reaching into a bag, pulling out a .45-caliber pistol and pointing it at officers, Kelly said.

The officers drew their weapons and fired 14 rounds, killing Johnson, Kelly said.

"These officers ... had absolutely no choice," Kelly said. "This individual took a gun out very close to them and perhaps fired at them."

Kelly said police may be responsible for some of the injuries because of the limited capacity of the gunman's weapon. Johnson's semi-automatic weapon was equipped to fire at least eight rounds; at least one round was left in the clip, police said. Another loaded magazine was in his briefcase.

Johnson legally bought the gun in Sarasota, Fla., in 1991, but he didn't have a required permit to possess the weapon in New York City, police said.

"New York City, as you know, is the safest big city in the country, and we are on pace to have a record low number of murders this year," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. "But we are not immune to the national problem of gun violence," he said about the shooting, which comes in the wake of mass shootings inside a Colorado movie theater and a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.

Robert Asika, who was shot in the right arm, said he was "100 percent positive" that a police officer had shot him. He also said he saw Johnson fire his gun at the officers.

Asika, 23, sells tickets for the Empire State Building's observatory.

"When I woke up this morning, I didn't even want to go to work," he said. "Something told me not to go to work."

Ercolino's profile on the business networking site LinkedIn identified him as a vice president of sales at Hazan Import. It said he was a graduate of the State University of New York at Oneonta.

A man who answered the phone at Ercolino's home in Warwick, northwest of Manhattan, said he was too distraught to talk.

"He was a good son, that's all I can say," said the man, who didn't give his name.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


New York City officials say a laid-off women's accessories designer fatally shot a former co-worker outside the Empire State Building, then was killed by police in a shootout that wounded nine bystanders.

Police say Jeffrey Johnson opened fire at about 9 a.m. Friday on the Fifth Avenue side of the building.

His victim was identified as Steven Ercolino, a vice president at Hazan Import.

That is the company where Johnson worked until he was laid off a year ago.

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

Police haven't released Ercolino's name, but a law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed his identity.

Nine others were hit by gunfire, including some who may have been struck by police bullets. They are expected to survive.


Previous Story

New York City officials say a laid-off women's accessories designer shot and killed co-worker outside the Empire State Building, then got in a shootout with police.

Fifty-three-year-old Jeffrey Johnson opened fire with a .45-caliber pistol at about 9 a.m. Friday on the Fifth Avenue side of the building. He was shot dead by police.

Nine others were hit by gunfire. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that some of the victims may have been hit by police bullets. The victims are expected to survive.

Johnson was laid off about a year ago from a company housed in the Empire State Building.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


Previous Story

Law enforcement officials in New York City say at least four people have been shot outside the Empire State Building in violence that stemmed from a workplace dispute, and that the gunman has been killed by police.

Police say as many as 10 people were injured, but it is unclear how many of them were hit by bullets.

The shooting happened at about 9 a.m. Friday at 34th Street and Fifth Avenue.

A law enforcement official says it stemmed from workplace dispute. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.

Federal officials say the shooting isn't related to terrorism, and a guard at the landmark said it didn't involve the parts of the building where tourists gather to visit the skyscraper.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


Previous Story

New York City police say at least four people have been shot outside the Empire State Building and that the gunman is dead. A witness says the shooter was firing indiscriminately.

The shooting happened Friday morning at 34th Street and Fifth Avenue.

A fire department spokesman says it received a call about the shooting just after at 9 a.m. Friday and that emergency units were on the scene within minutes.

The department says paramedics are evaluating eight people but some of them may not have been shot.

Aliyah Imam tells Fox 5 News that she was standing at a red light when a woman standing next to her fell to the ground. She says the woman was hit in the hip. She says the gunman was "shooting indiscriminately at people."

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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