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2 Dead in Empire State Building Shooting

Friday, August 24, 2012

A disgruntled former women's accessories designer shot a former colleague to death Friday and then was killed in a shootout with police near the Empire State Building that left nine others wounded, officials said.

Some victims in the shooting may have been hit by police bullets, officials said. The nine people wounded in the gunfire after 9 a.m. on the Fifth Avenue side of the building were expected to survive, police said.

Jeffrey Johnson, 58, was laid off about a year ago from Hazan Imports and targeted a 41-year-old former colleague, shooting the man in the head, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

The victim was identified as Steven Ercolino, a vice president at the company, according to authorities.

A man who answered the phone at Hazan Imports declined to comment. The company made headlines in 2003 when it was sued by Louis Vuitton for trademark infringement, Women's Wear Daily reports.

Nicholas D'Aurizio, a designer who works at Hazan, said Ercolino could be a bit “abrasive” and was a “hot head.” He described it as a small office, of between five and 10 employees. He said he did not know the gunman.

A construction worker followed Johnson, tipped off police nearby. Johnson turned his .45-caliber pistol on officers and they returned fire, Kelly said. Johnson was shot and killed by police, who fired 16 rounds.

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

It's not clear if Johnson opened fire on the officers, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg said some of the nine wounded may have been shot by police in the mayhem.

Kelly said investigators believe police may be responsible for some of the injuries, based on the gunman's weapon. Johnson's semi-automatic weapon, which was legally purchased in Florida in 1991, 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. 

Robert Asika, 23, was shot in the arm after he took off running from the location in front of the Empire State Building where he sells tickets for the City Sights a tourism company. He said Johnson pulled out a gun and pointed it at two officers. It was "crazy," he said, adding that he is convinced he and others were shot by police bullets.

“The way the guy was standing, there is no way it would have been the guy. It was the police officers who hit everybody that got hit,” said Asika.

He added, "One of them shot me in the arm, and I fell. I didn't even know until I got to the end of the street and I saw the blood."

Erica Solar, 30, a married receptionist from the Bronx with two children was walking to Dunkin Donuts for a cup of coffee when she was shot in the left leg behind her knee, her brother said.

“She went to get a cup of coffee and that’s when she heard the shots,” her brother, Louis Lleras, 32, said outside Bellevue Hospital. Solar, who had an 10-year old and 13-year old, did not realize she was shot, he said.

(Photo: Steven Ercolino was shot dead Friday. Courtesy of Linkedin)

Media Rosario, 43, a secretary from Ridgewood, Queens, who works in Midtown, was walking to work when she was shot in the back of her right leg. Her sister-in-law said she was in stable condition at the hospital.

“She was walking across the street from her job. She said she heard a gun shot … By the time she turned around, she was hit,” Auselis Rosario said outside Bellevue Hospital.

After the shootout, crowds of tourists and people on their way to work gathered along 34th Street, which was shut down by police. Police helicopters buzzed overhead and swarms of officers were gathered around the crime scene.

Gloria Walker, who was walking to her midtown office from Penn Station Friday morning, said she heard the “pop, pop, pop, pop” of gunfire and ducked into her office on 33rd Street and Madison. When she came back out, she saw a man who she described as the shooter lying on the ground.

“Then I saw the shooter laying over there in front of the Empire State Building,” she said, describing the man as a white male with beige pants.

She said she also saw two others loaded into ambulances.

The surviving victims of the shooting were taken to two area hospitals, Bellevue and NY Presbyterian. Mayor Bloomberg visited Bellevue, where six of the victims were treated. According to the police, six of the nine bystanders were treated and released from the hospital Friday. Three were admitted for non-life threatening injuries.

Fred Mogul, Jim O'Grady, Yasmeen Khan and the Associated Press contributed reporting

The NYPD released video of the gunman's death. It contains some graphic material.

Alec Hamilton/WNYC
Multiple people were shot Friday morning outside the Empire State Building.
Jim O'Grady/WNYC
Crowds gathered near the area where multiple people were shot near the Empire State Building.
Jim O'Grady/WNYC
Police near the area where multiple people were shot in midtown Friday morning.
Alec Hamilton/WNYC
Emergency responders at the scene of a multiple shooting in midtown.
Jim O'Grady/WNYC
The FBI is on the scene of a multiple shooting near the Empire State Building.
Stephen Nessen/WNYC
A view of the crime scene where a fired worker allegedly shot his former colleague.

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Comments [21]

kevin from upper LS

i'd be not the biggest cop defender in the world,but,i try to be fair. it seems to me, it's just too easy, to say that they were trigger happy. how would any of us react to split second danger,with so many variables that require instinct,as oppossed to logic. i despise "stop and frisk", i think it's bantustan policng,explicitely racist,and totally ineffective. however, let's be careful, about seeing everything through a fixed political lense. some of you, have a need to retrofit any and everything to your bigger political universe,and you become intellectualy no less trigger happy, than cops often are, in those "other" neighborhoods.

Aug. 25 2012 01:42 PM
SKV from NYC

At this point it is not clear why the police shot this man.

They apparently did not witness him shooting anyone.

A construction worker told them a man had shot someone.

It sounds like he did not have his gun visible, much less firing upon them.

They opened fire on a crowded street and killed one man and wounded nine more.

This isn't suicide by cop; it looks more like murder by cop.

Aug. 24 2012 11:02 PM
ts from nc

8 people shot accidentally by police. How many would be shot if ordinary citizens had guns in a crowded movie theatre?

Aug. 24 2012 05:02 PM
Juliana Mazzocca from lITTLE falls, ny

The New York city police are just trigger happy. The bottom line is that they don't care who they shoot or how many times, because they have a badge on and there will be a lawsuite against the city for collateral damage!
Maybe the citizens should get together with some rifles and do the same to the might proud, dependable and always there shooting POLICE OFFICERS!

Aug. 24 2012 03:31 PM
KB

People are missing the point--he was unemployed for a year and probably decided today he would commit suicide, and take out his "abrasive" "hot head" former boss with him. How did he get into the building with a firearm? NYC office buildings have heavy security. With the unemployment rate the way it is, many are desperate for work. It is impossible to live in NYC without employment. Look at what drove him to this act. This is a sad day.

Aug. 24 2012 02:20 PM
Michael O'Malley from NJ

@ Jim from N NJ:
First of all, we don't know for sure whether or not the murderer is responsible for any of the bystander shootings. Assuming that all of the bystanders were shot by police for sake of argument, what is your recommendation? Why didn't the officers just shoot the gun out of his hand, like they did in the old westerns? Neither you nor I have been in the position of those policemen - and I would venture to guess the same was true of the two police officers before today. Walk a mile in their mocassins before you rush to criticism.

Aug. 24 2012 01:50 PM
Mark from Brooklyn since 1956

A taste of Colorodo in Midtown?

Aug. 24 2012 01:24 PM
kevin from upper LS

forgive me, but 'women's accessories designer',just sounds so manhattan....

Aug. 24 2012 12:42 PM
kevin from upper LS

a taste of the bronx in midtown ?

read into that whatever you will.

another political polarizer for sure.

Aug. 24 2012 12:29 PM
John Culpepper

It seems they don't want give out any information that might have a dampening effect on the tourist trade.

Aug. 24 2012 12:26 PM

Why is it that whenever there is a police shootout, the police shoot so many times? Is that really necessary, especially on a crowded city street?

Aug. 24 2012 11:44 AM
Jim from N NJ

We don't know about this guy yet, but nobody has mentioned that almost all the shooters in other public shooting cases (all the colleges, high schools, etc.) have been on ANTI-DEPRESSENT DRUGS at the time of the shootings. One of the published side effects of those drugs is homicidal inclinations. Why is this never mentioned?

Aug. 24 2012 11:42 AM
Margaret from Brooklyn

Regarding Mab from Fairfield's comment: please let's not forget the recent shooting in Wisconsin at the Sikh Temple too. We need national GUN CONTROL!

Aug. 24 2012 11:38 AM
Jim from N NJ

Does anyone else have a problem with this? --

The shooter shot one person. He was pointed out to two policemen. EIGHT more people are shot, apparently by the police who were trying to shoot the perpetrator.

If the original shooter was close enough to be seen and pointed out to the two police officers, how can the police be such lousy shots that they hit EIGHT other people besides the one they were shooting at?

(There has been no mention of the original shooter shooting at other than the police officers).

This seems to happen a lot lately... why couldn't two police officers, who could apparently see their target, kill they guy with one or two shots which hit only the guy they were aiming at?

As an aside, now there are eight potential lawsuits against NYC for the 'collateral damage' done by the police.

On the 'good side' at least there won't be any taxpayer expense for a trial of this shooter guy.

Aug. 24 2012 11:37 AM
Hugh from NYC

I find it incredible that the various news agencies report anything without really knowing what happened. I have been watching the local TV news and they have just been speculating from what little they could see when they arrived on the scene. It's also a little strange that they can't tell you definitively how many people are dead or wounded almost two hours after this happened.

But mostly I think they should just report what they know and then stop. One station had pictures of people with ATF jackets on. So they started reporting that the ATF was on the scene working with the NYPD as if they actually had reporters who knew that.

Aug. 24 2012 11:32 AM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

The WNYC reporter who was just featured during a news blurb asking a witness outside the Empire State Bldg: "You saw the body? What did it look like?"

So incredibly tasteless. What is this, TMZ? get some class, WNYC reporter!

Aug. 24 2012 10:53 AM

@JoeCorrao - We're hearing 10 shot, 2 killed. We'll keep you posted on updates.

Aug. 24 2012 10:45 AM
Matthew from Brooklyn

In answer to Al from NYC: white males don't committee terrorism, they merely express their 2nd Amendment rights.

Aug. 24 2012 10:45 AM
Mab from Fairfield

eems like people with serious mental illness and with complete and legal access to guns have been the source of most of the recent mass/public shootings - Colorado, Arizona, Virginia Tech.

Aug. 24 2012 10:24 AM
al from NYC

The BBC says "The incident does not appear to be terror-related, police said." I don't understand what dose that means????!!!! any act of violence should be considered as a terror attack!!!

Aug. 24 2012 10:03 AM

Reuters says 2 killed...any confirmation?

Aug. 24 2012 09:49 AM

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