Graphic video shows police fatally shooting a man who gunned down his former boss during the morning rush hour Friday, just steps from the Empire State Building.
Jeffrey Johnson, 58, was dressed in a grey business suit and had a black bag concealing the .45-caliber handgun he used to shoot 41-year-old Steve Ercolino near the intersection of 34th and Fifth Ave. Johnson shot his former boss three times, once in the head before walking east on W. 33rd street.
A construction worker pointed out the shooter to nearby NYPD counter-terrorism officers, who confronted him, according to Police Commissioner Kelly. Johnson pulled out his handgun and fired at the two 15-year veterans, who fired 16 shots, killing him. Nine bystanders were also hit during the hail of bullets, but none were seriously injured.
According to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, some may have been hit by police rounds. However, a police source told PIX11 that, although not certain, it is likely that all 9 of those injured were hit by either bullets or bullet fragments from NYPD weapons.
The two officers, both from the notoriously dangerous 42 precinct in the Bronx, fired at Johnson – one seven times, the other nine.
Johnson worked for six years with Ercolino as a women’s accessories designer at Hazan Imports at 10 West 33rd St. until laid off last year during a downsizing.
“My world is devastated, he was just a loving guy, he loved life,” said Paul Ercolino, the victim’s brother. “He was just a special person and to think I’m not going to see him anymore is just heartbreaking.”
Not much is known yet about the gunman and his motive, except that he had a running conflict with Ercolino. An argument at Hazan Imports escalated into a shoving match in the elevator of the building, during which Johnson told Ercolino “I am going to kill you,” according to a police source. Both men filed complaints against the other after that incident, on April 27th of last year.
Those who knew Johnson described him as a well-dressed, introverted person.
“I thought he was working from the house, because, like I say, he always suit up,” said the superintendent of his Upper East Side building on 82nd St. Bill Suarez. “Every single day he goes to McDonalds around 7:30 or 8:00, buy whatever, read the New York Times (and) go back upstairs.”
This morning however, Suarez says he saw him leave and noticed that he didn’t return. When police called, Suarez was watching the news and feared that someone from his building had been shot during the rampage.
However, police told him his tenant was the gunman in the bloody incident. “I never had any problems with this guy; I’ve never been to his apartment either, because he wouldn’t let anyone in.”
The only person Suarez ever saw enter the apartment was his mother, who he said visited maybe twice in the last 18 months.
As local and federal investigations continue, family and friends of the victim are still in shock.
“We don’t know what to tell our children, we don’t know what to tell each other,” Ercolino said. “You’re ripped.”
ARTHUR CHI'EN AND MARY MURPHY CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT.