An armed man was killed by police and nine bystanders wounded by gunfire near the Empire State Building Friday morning after investigators say he fatally shot his former boss just moments before.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly says the gunman, identified as Jeffrey Johnson, 58, of Manhattan, confronted a former boss at Hazan Imports, located at 10 West 33rd Street, at 9:03 a.m. Friday.
Johnson, armed with a .45-caliber handgun, then allegedly fired three shots at his victim, identified as Steve Ercolino, 41.
Kelly says Johnson then proceeded to walk east on West 33rd Street but was followed by a construction worker who alerted two officers posted outside the landmark skyscraper's Fifth Avenue entrance.
As they approached Johnson, Kelly says he pulled the gun from a bag he was carrying and pointed it at the officers.
Kelly says the two officers then fired a total of 14 shots, killing him.
It is unclear if Johnson fired back at the officers.
A total of nine civilians were wounded by gunfire.
Robert Asika, who sells tickets to the observation deck of the Empire State Building, was one of the nine people wounded.
"I'm scared," he told NY1. "I'm angry. Every part of my body, my arm is aching right now."
Commissioner Kelly says investigators believe police may be responsible for some of the injuries.
According to police, six of the nine bystanders injured in the shooting were treated and released from local hospitals, while three were admitted with non-life-threatening injuries.
Six of the wounded bystanders were taken to Bellevue Hospital, while three others were brought to New York-Presbyterian Cornell Hospital. The three victims brought to New York-Presbyterian were discharged, according to hospital officials.
"I ask everyone to keep the victims in their thoughts and in their prayers. 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," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Outside the hospitals, family and friends scrambled to find out information about their loved ones.
One person who spoke with NY1 says his sister was shot in the leg but is doing okay and was looking forward to being released.
"The bullet still lodged inside. Like I said the doctors don't want to let her go until everything is fine," said the woman's brother. "She's fine. She's a little restless. She just wants to go home and get this over with."
30-year-old Erica Solar was on a coffee run before clocking in to work as a receptionist nearby. The mother of two was laying on the sidewalk bleeding after being shot in the leg when coincidentally, her friend, Christopher Collins, happened to step off the bus. Minutes later, he was in the ambulance helping Solar.
"It's just a shock," Collins said. "You're ready for a regular Friday, on your way to work and you don't expect to see a friend of yours on the street bleeding when you get off the bus."
Police say Johnson worked at Hazan Imports, an accessories company, for six years but had been at odds with Ercolino after being laid off last year.
According to police, Johnson and Ercolino filed harassment complaints against each other but no formal charges were ever filed.
Police say that Johnson purchased the gun legally in Florida in 1991 but did not have the proper permits to operate it in New York City.
Police say they found one clip inside the weapon and a magazine inside the briefcase Johnson was carrying.
For most of the day, a stretch of 34th Street and Fifth Avenue was closed to traffic as police continued their investigation.
All streets have since reopened.
For countless bystanders, what they thought would be a normal or happy go-lucky Friday morning was anything but.
"I'm still nervous. I can hear the ringing in my ears now," said one bystander.
"[9 a.m.,] I went to get my coffee," said a second bystander. "I was there at the right place at the right time. Had I gone a second earlier, a second later, I would have been across the street, God forbid."
"We have to worry about terrorism," said a third. "Now we have to worry about guys with suits and ties, shooting up other people."
Many took away from the shooting that life is fleeting, cops were there when needed and the shooter claimed only one life.
"You gotta go bungee jumping, go traveling, because you never know when your last day might be," said one bystander.
In response to Friday's shooting, Malkin Holdings, the Empire State Building's supervisor, released a statement which read, in part, "This unfortunate event had nothing to do with the Empire State Building or with terrorism. The Empire State Building and its Observatories remained open throughout, and continue to be open and operating. At no time was there any related activity in the building. We express our deepest concern for those innocents who were hurt and our appreciation to the NYPD."
Mayor Bloomberg is a strong gun control advocate and he used Friday's shooting as a call to action.
During his weekly radio show, Bloomberg was discussing guns and the lack of action by Congress minutes before the shooting.
Shortly after, he was on the scene, reminding New Yorkers there is a limit to what police can do.
"New York City, as you know, is the safest big city in the country and we're on pace to have a record low number of murders this year," he said. "But we are not immune to the national problem of gun violence."
Mayor Bloomberg has used recent shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin to speak out against gun violence and to criticize the presidential candidates for failing to take a stand against illegal guns.
Shooting A Reminder Of Skyscraper's Tragic Past
Friday's incident was not the first time gunfire rang out at or near the Empire State Building.
On February 23 1997, Palestinian immigrant Ali Abu Kamal opened fire on the Observation Deck killing one person and injuring six others before turning the gun on himself.
100 people were on the Observation Deck on the 86th floor at the time.
Two children were rushed to area hospitals after being trampled as people ran for their lives.
Kamal, who had been in the country less than two months, died of his wounds.
It's believed he was motivated at least in part by anger over the treatment of Palestinians.