Instead it was bullets from the cops' guns that wounded nine bystanders, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Saturday morning at a press briefing in Harlem. Police also killed alleged gunman Jeffrey Johnson, 58, in the confrontation.
There was bad blood between the two men for some time and both had filed police reports over their long-standing issues, Kelly said on Saturday.
"Johnson filed a complaint against Ercolino that said he had some sort of physical confrontation with him in the lobby of the building. Ercolino filed a complaint saying that he was threatened by Johnson, possibly threatened and that he was going to kill him," Kelly said. "There had been a long standing dispute between the two of them. That is, for all intents and purposes, the motive."
The shooting triggered a chaotic confrontation with police, which wounded nine bystanders, city officials said.
Three of the bystanders were shot by police and the other six were hit by bullet fragments, Kelly said. Police also shot and killed Johnson.
"After shots were fired yesterday, we had a witness who said that Johnson fired at police; that was not the case," Kelly said. "Neither round had indication, meaning the pin struck the round. We believe the gun was still functioning when he killed Ercolino."
One bullet remained in Johnson's seven-shot gun and another was found ejected without having been being fired, Kelly said.
Three of the bystanders remain hospitalized at Bellevue Hospital Medical Center Saturday morning with nonlife threatening injuries. A hospital representative said Saturday morning the patients are unlikely to be released in the next 24 hours.
The New York City medical examiner will do an autopsy of Johnson and the man he allegedly killed some time Saturday.
The burst of gunfire on Fifth Avenue triggered pandemonium near one of the city's iconic tourist attractions, sending office workers and tourists alike scurrying for cover at the end of the morning rush hour.
Kelly praised his department's handling of the large crowd control issues at Friday's scene.
"We had to close off the street because it was an active crime scene. I believe it was handled well," he said.
He also spoke about the recent New York City gun violence.
"It's a disgrace. There are way too many guns and way too many young people with access to guns," Kelly said.
Robert Asika, 23, of the Bronx, who is a ticket seller at the Empire State Building Observation deck, was there when the cops opened fire.
"I saw everybody running. I looked around and saw two police officers with their guns out," said Asika, who was shot in the elbow.
"I'm scared, and I'm hurting," Asika said outside of Bellevue Medical Center. "Every part of my body is hurting right now."