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NYPD: All Shooting Victims Hit by Police Gunfire

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Multiple people were shot Friday morning outside the Empire State Building. (Alec Hamilton/WNYC)

All nine people wounded during a dramatic confrontation between police and a gunman outside the Empire State Building were struck by bullets fired by the two officers, police said Saturday, citing ballistics evidence.

The veteran patrolmen who opened fire on the suit-wearing gunman, Jeffrey Johnson, had only an instant to react when he whirled and pointed a .45-caliber pistol as they approached him from behind on a busy sidewalk.

Officer Craig Matthews shot seven times. Officer Robert Sinishtaj fired nine times, police said. Neither had ever fired their weapons before on a patrol.

The volley of gunfire felled Johnson in just a few seconds and left nine other people bleeding on the sidewalk.

In the initial chaos Friday, it wasn't clear whether Johnson or the officers were responsible for the trail of wounded, but based on ballistic and other evidence, "it appears that all nine of the victims were struck either by fragments or by bullets fired by police," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters on Saturday at a community event in Harlem.

He reiterated that the officers appeared to have no choice but to shoot Johnson, whose body had 10 bullets wounds in the chest, arms and legs.

"I believe it was handled well," Kelly said.

The officers confronted Johnson as he walked, casually, down the street after gunning down a former co-worker on the sidewalk outside the office they once shared. The shooting happened at 9 a.m., as the neighborhood bustled with people arriving for work.

A security videotape from the scene shows several civilians - including three sitting on a bench only a few feet away - scattering as the officers opened fire.

Police have determined that three people were struck by whole bullets - two of which were removed from victims at the hospital - and the rest were grazed "by fragments of some sort," Kelly said.

Three people remained hospitalized, all in stable condition, police said.

Both Matthews, 39, and Sinishtaj, 40, joined the nation's largest police department 15 years ago.

Matthews had drawn attention earlier this year by filing a lawsuit against the New York Police Department that accused his superiors of unfairly punishing him for not meeting arrest quotas. A judge threw out the complaint.

There was no immediate response to a message left with the union representing the two officers.

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