Cops may have shot bystanders - NY mayor

2012-08-24 20:10
New York City police approach the lifeless body of Jeffrey Johnson lying on a pavement near the Empire State Building in New York following a shooting. (Guillermo Ratzlaff, AP)

New York City police approach the lifeless body of Jeffrey Johnson lying on a pavement near the Empire State Building in New York following a shooting. (Guillermo Ratzlaff, AP)

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New York - A disgruntled former worker at a Manhattan women's clothing shop shot a former co-worker outside the Empire State Building before being killed by police on Friday.

In total, two people were killed and nine had non-life threatening wounds in the horrific, but brief shooting, police commissioner Ray Kelly told a news conference.

The FBI quickly ruled out terrorism.

The shooter was identified as "disgruntled former worker" Jeffrey Johnson, 53, and his victim was aged 41, Kelly said.

Kelly said the man used a .45 caliber handgun with a magazine capacity of eight rounds and shot his former colleague at Hazan Imports in the head, "striking him three times".

The shooter put his gun in a bag and tried to flee but was confronted by two police officers who had been alerted by a nearby construction worker, Mayor Michael Bloomberg told the news conference.

"The perpetrator clearly turned his gun on the police and tried to shoot them," Bloomberg said. "The cops returned fire, killing him."

It was unclear whether the gunman had time to fire at the police and some of the gunshot wounds may have been caused by stray police bullets, the mayor said.

"Some may have been shot accidentally."

State Senator Malcolm Smith told local television that the mayor had told him that Johnson had shot his former manager.

Streets around one of the Big Apple's biggest attractions were closed as police flooded the area. Television helicopters hovered overhead, filming the aftermath, including the body of the suspect covered in a white sheet.

Police had no shortage of witnesses in the bustling neighborhood, where tourists and office workers were massing for the start of the day.

"I was scared, in shock, literally shaking. It was just by chance I missed it," witness Rebecca Fox said. "I saw a woman covered with blood. Another woman was being taken to an ambulance."

Fox said she had also seen the gunman, who appeared to be of middle age and was lying on the ground.

"There was blood on the ground," she said.

Another witness said she heard shots ring out just as she arrived at her office, where she works in the personnel department.

"I was inside the building. He shot the manager outside and then ran to Fifth Avenue," Maria Almodovar Ramos said.

She said the shooting spooked her "because I work in human resources and when you let certain people go you don't know how the individual will react."

Police secured the area almost immediately and it was quickly apparent that only one shooter was involved.

The FBI also said shortly afterwards that there was "no nexus to terrorism."

Footage from news helicopters showed police inspecting the shooter's body under the north side of the Empire State Building. Officers were also seen marking about a dozen spots with evidence markers, many of them probably ammunition casings.

The tower is one of the city's icons on a par with the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge.

In 1997, six people were wounded and one killed in a shooting rampage on the skyscraper's observation deck before the gunman turned the gun on himself.

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