Aerial shot of Empire State Building shooting (Photo Courtesy: USA Today)
NEW YORK - A lone gunman laid off from his job a year earlier opened fire outside the Empire State Building Friday morning, killing a former co-worker before he was shot and killed in an exchange of gunfire with two New York City police officers.
Nine victims were wounded in the exchange of gunfire, although their wounds are not believed to be life-threatening.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg identified the shooter as Jeffrey Johnson, 53, armed with a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol. Johnson had been fired last year from Hazan Imports, a women's designer accessories company at 10 West 33 St. He shot and killed a former 41-year-old co-worker, whose name was not released Friday morning.
After the shooting, Johnson began walking away from the scene, an area bustling with shoppers and tourists. He was followed by a construction worker, who alerted two NYPD officers. As they approached him, he pulled a gun from a black bag and shot at them before the officers returned fire, killing him, Bloomberg said. The wounded include two women and seven men sent to two area hospitals whom Bloomberg said may have been accidentally shot by cops.
Jamal Yahaya, 36, who works for New York Skyrise, a tourist operation at the Empire State Building, says he was at the front entrance at 5th Avenue. Yahaya didn't witness the shooting, but said he saw a man walking north on 5th Avenue. The police were following him and told him to stop. The man reached into his shoulder bag, pulled out a gun and fired at the police. The police fired back, Yahaya said.
"I saw him go down after the police shot at him," says Yahaya, a Ghana native who lives in Brooklyn. "I've never seen anything like this in my life."
A fire department spokesman says it received a call about the shooting just after 9 a.m. near 34th Street and Fifth Avenue. Emergency personnel were on the scene within minutes.
Bronx resident Louis Sanchez, 28, who works security at a nearby building, was crossing 33rd Street when he heard shots ring out.
"I just thought it was noise from construction,'' Sanchez says. "I turned around and saw the cops running."
Marc Engel, an accountant riding on an eastbound 34th Street city bus, says he couldn't believe that he heard shots on an early morning workday. Fellow passengers were yelling " 'Get down, get down,' " Engel said. "There were a lot of pop, pop, pop noises. Everyone hit the floor."
Engel says he saw a woman in blue, leaning against the Empire State Building, with a "stream of blood."
Aliyah Imam tells Fox 5 News that she was standing at a red light when a woman standing next to her fell to the ground. She says the woman was hit in the hip. She says the gunman was "shooting indiscriminately at people."
Nearby streets remained closed to the public at noon. Inside the perimeter, there are police vehicles and cops as helicopters hover overhead. Crowds of curious onlookers gathered just outside the areas blocked off with police tape.
The Associated Press