NEW YORK (From WCBS, AP) -- A man laid off about a year ago went to his former workplace Friday morning and shot a co-worker in the face, killing him, before a shootout broke out between him and New York police officers near the Empire State Building, injuring nine, the police said.
The gunman was shot and killed by two officers. New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said during a Friday news conference that the people wounded in the shootout suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Some of those injured may have been accidentally shot by the officers, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
"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," Bloomberg said.
Kelly identified the gunman as Jeffrey Johnson, who was laid off as a designer of women's accessories from Hazan Import after working there for six years. Kelly also said Johnson was 53 but later corrected himself, saying Johnson was actually 58, CBS station WCBS-TV reports. Kelly only identified the co-worker as a 41-year-old man. CBS News has confirmed that the victim is Steven Ercolino.
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.
He had recently moved to New Jersey after living for a time in Warwick, just north of New York City, said his eldest brother, Paul Ercolino. He grew up in Nanuet, N.Y.
"He was in the prime of his life," Paul Ercolino said. His brother was a gregarious salesman — known to nieces and nephews as "Uncle Ducky" because of his nearly blond hair — who had followed his father into the garment industry, then later worked in women's handbags and accessories.
He never mentioned to the family that he had any problems with a co-worker, Paul Ercolino said. Hazan Import Corp. imports women's clothing and accessories, according to public records. Calls to its executives weren't immediately returned
A law enforcement source told "CBS Evening News" that shooter blamed the victim for not supporting his work while he was at the company. Even after he was laid off, Johnson would leave his Upper East Side apartment building each morning in a suit, and often returned about a half hour later after going to get breakfast at McDonald's, his neighbors said.
"He was always alone," said Gisela Casella, who lived a few floors above him. "I always felt bad. I said, `Doesn't he have a girlfriend?' I never saw him with anybody."
Internet records list him as administrator of the website for a business called St. Jolly's Art, which sold iron-on art for R-shirts, including stylized drawings of fighter planes, muscle cars and ships.
Johnson was also part of a community of bird watchers and photographers who document hawks and other wildlife living in Central Park, a few blocks from his home. In an email to another bird watcher, who works at The Associated Press, Johnson wrote tenderly about spending a winter night watching ducks in the park.
"Near midnight by the Harlem Meer I watched a little `flotilla' of Mallards swimming and softly honking ...fifteen degree temp and they were carrying on unfazed. Just remarkable," he wrote.
CBS' John Miller reports Johnson and the victim had each filed harassment complaints against each other during the past year. It's unclear whether those complaints were filed with police or in civil court. Johnson has no criminal record, police told WCBS-TV.
Wearing a suit and tie and carrying a briefcase, women's accessories designer Jeffrey Johnson walked up to the import company vice president, Steven Ercolino, put a gun to his head and fired five times without saying a word, authorities said.
A witness told investigators that Johnson shot Ercolino once in the head and, after he fell to the sidewalk, stood over him and shot him again. The gunman walked away and calmly turned up 5th Avenue, where he blended in with the crowd, police said.
"Jeffrey just came from behind two cars, pulled out his gun, put it up to Steve's head and shot him," Carol Timan, whose daughter, Irene, was walking to Hazan Imports at the time with Ercolino, told The Associated Press.
With his .45 caliber handgun hidden in black bag, Johnson fled, Kelly said. 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. Commissioner 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 two officers drew their weapons and fired 16 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," 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.
"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."
Some of the victims were reportedly found inside the lobby of the Empire State Building while some were found on the street.
The FBI said that there is "no initial connection to terrorism."
Witnesses described a chaotic scene.
"I was sitting outside, and I heard three shots first and I saw three people running up to Park Avenue way from the Empire State Building," one woman told WCBS-TV. "Then we heard it again and it was like 10 to 15 shots at one time. Then we saw the whole block, like over 50 people running to Park Avenue."
"I was pulling some boxes out of my truck and right in front of my truck I heard about five gunshots," another witness told CBS station WINS-AM. "I turned around to the left and I saw a man lying vertically with blood coming out of his head."
"I just asked one of the folks who was running by me what had happened and they said 'someone was shot,'" Sid Dinsay, a former New York City Office of Emergency Management official, told CBS station WCBS-AM. "Take a few more steps down the block and there was a deceased person on the sidewalk, apparently the victim of gunshots and lifeless and just lying there."
Witness Joseph Cohen told "CBS Evening News that he was yards away. "I never thought in my life I'd actually ever witness an actual gunshot," he said. "But when I started hearing multiple shots i knew at that point I needed to run somewhere and in the direction that I was running was actually towards the scene, as opposed to away from the scene."
Friday's shooting is the third high-profile gun incident of the summer, following the July 20 massacre at a Denver-area movie theater that killed 12 people and injured 58 others, and a mass shooting at a Wisconsin Sikh temple Aug. 5 that left seven people dead, including the gunman with ties to a white supremacist group.