3Curated News Edition
Submitted at 8/24/2012 6:49:31 PM
By Lily Kuo and ChrisFrancescaniNEW YORK| Fri Aug 24, 20127:49pm EDT(Reuters) - An out-of-work fashion designer fatally shot aformer co-worker near the EmpireState Building on Friday and thenwas killed in a blaze of gunshotsby police, stunning tourists andcommuters outside of one of NewYork's most popular landmarks.Eight bystanders were wounded,possibly all of them by policebullets, though none of theirinjuries were life-threatening,police said.Officials said that women'saccessories designer JeffreyJohnson, 58, had been laid off from Hazan Imports a year agoand that while working there, hadbeen locked in a dispute with thevictim. Police said Johnson hadclaimed the victim had failed tosell enough of his creations andheld a grudge.Investigators were attempting todetermine whether Johnson shotanyone beyond his initial target.All eight of the surviving victimscould have been hit by the twopolice officers who shot atJohnson, officials said.Several were likely hit by policebullets that ricocheted off large,anti-terror concrete flower potsstationed outside the Manhattanlandmark, police said.Other than its proximity, theEmpire State Building had no link to the violence. Mayor MichaelBloomberg ruled out anyconnection to terrorism.The shooting rattled an always-busy part of Midtown Manhattanat the height of the tourist season."I saw a friend of mine lying onthe street bleeding. She was inshock," said Christopher Collins,who said he tried to keep her calmas he rode with her in anambulance. "I'm glad the copsshot him dead. One less trial wehave to go through."The mother of a co-worker whowitnessed the shooting identifiedthe dead executive as SteveErcolino. Police declined toconfirm his identity.Ercolino was walking towardHazan Imports, across 33rd Streetfrom the Empire State Building,and stopped to talk to a colleague.Johnson, dressed in a suit and tieand carrying a black canvas bag,walked up and shot Ercolino atclose range, police said, and thenstood over the man and shot himagain -- a total of five shots.Johnson, carrying a secondmagazine in his bag, then walked"calmly" a block away, policesaid, past two officers stationed infront of the entrance to the EmpireState Building. A pair of construction workers whowitnessed the shooting followedJohnson and tipped off theofficers, pointing at Johnson as hepassed, police said.The two cops approachedJohnson, who drew his gun,turned and pointed it directly atthe officers from about eight feetaway, police said. Police openedfire and shot him, PoliceDepartment spokesman PaulBrowne told reporters.One officer fired nine times andthe other seven times, Brownesaid. Investigators believeJohnson was shot seven times; hisbody had 10 bullets wounds, threeof which were believed to be exitwounds, Browne said.Animosity between Johnson andErcolino had prompted them tofile counter complaints withpolice in April 2011, Brownesaid. No charges resulted from thecomplaints.SUMMER SHOOTINGSIt was the third major shooting of the summer in the United States,following an assault on a crowdedcinema in Colorado and an attack on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin,rekindling debate about guncontrol in America. The NewYork shooting was different inthat Johnson appeared to haveonly one intended victim."We are not immune to thenational problem of gunviolence," said Bloomberg, aleading national proponent of guncontrol and founder of the groupMayors Against Illegal Guns.Bloomberg has often called NewYork the safest big city inAmerica, citing a declining crimerate that had the city on pace foranother record low number of homicides in 2012."It's time to get the guns off thestreet," said Brandon Thorpe, 23,a janitor who said he has lost fivefriends to gun violence. "This is atourist attraction. How are wesupposed to make people feel safeif they come here and seesomething like this?"The Empire State Building iswalking distance fromPennsylvania Station and GrandCentral Terminal, two of NewYork's main transportation hubs,and the shooting took place at theend of the morning rush hour."I heard the gunshots. It was likepop, pop, pop. It was definitely ina bunch," said Dahlia Anister, 33,who works at an office near thebuilding.BLOODY SIDEWALKMail courier James Bolden, 31,said he saw a "guy laying on the(sidewalk), bleeding from theneck and barely breathing.""Everybody was crowded aroundhim taking pictures and video, andsecurity guys were yellingeverybody to get back, and givehim space. He was barelybreathing," Bolden said.One witness said she saw awoman who was shot in the footand another woman being takenaway in an ambulance."I was walking down 33rd (Street)and there's a dead guy. I just sawpools of blood. He was layingdown and the was blood pooling(around him)," said Justin Kellis,35, who works nearby.The United States has had twoother mass shootings this summer.On July 20, a gunman opened fireat a midnight screening of theBatman film "The Dark KnightRises" in Aurora, Colorado,killing 12 people and wounding58.On August 5, a gunman killed sixpeople and critically woundedthree at a Sikh temple outsideMilwaukee before police shot himdead in an attack authoritiestreated as an act of domesticterrorism.This was the second high-profileshooting incident in two weeks inNew York's tourist-heavyMidtown Manhattan. On August12, New York police shot andkilled a knife-wielding suspect ashe sought to evade them throughSaturday-afternoon traffic andpedestrians in Times Square.
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