News24

All 9 Empire State shooting victims hit by police

2012-08-25 23:04

New York - All nine bystanders caught in the crossfire of a shooting outside New York City's iconic Empire State Building were wounded by two police officers who had never fired their weapons on duty, authorities confirmed on Saturday.

Officer Craig Matthews fired seven times and Officer Robert Sinishtaj fired nine times at Jeffrey Johnson on a busy Friday morning in the highly touristed area after Johnson shot a former co-worker to death and then pointed his pistol at them.

Based on ballistic tests and other evidence, "it appears that all nine of the victims were struck either by fragments or by bullets fired by police", Commissioner Raymond Kelly said on Saturday.

Investigators were trying to piece together what caused Johnson to ambush former colleague Steve Ercolino, a vice president at the company where Johnson was laid off last year.

Police said Johnson hid behind a car and killed Ercolino with five gunshots as he arrived for work. Johnson then walked away before being shot by two police officers who confronted him moments later.

Security camera footage showed the officers had only an instant to react when Johnson turned as they approached and pointed his gun at them, his arm cocked as if to fire.

Their encounter was over in eight seconds. The officers, who had been standing nearly close enough to shake hands with Johnson, fired almost immediately.

Nine bystanders were wounded in the 16-shot volley, all by stray or ricocheting police bullets. No injuries were life-threatening, police said.

'Police had no choice'


Johnson and Ercolino had traded harassment accusations when they worked together, police said, and when Johnson was laid off a year ago he blamed Ercolino, saying he hadn't aggressively marketed Johnson's new T-shirt line.

A neighbour who often saw Johnson, 58, said he was always alone.

"I always felt bad," said Gisela Casella, who lived a few floors above him. "I said, 'Doesn't he have a girlfriend?' I never saw him with anybody."

Ercolino, 41, was described by his relatives as the opposite of a loner.

His eldest brother, Paul Ercolino, said he was a gregarious salesman who often travelled, had a loving girlfriend and was the life of any family gathering.

"He was in the prime of his life," he said.

The shooting shocked New Yorkers from their morning routines, with people sprawled in the streets bleeding and a tarp covering a body in front of one of the world's most well-known buildings.

The officers who fired were part of a detail regularly assigned to patrol landmarks since the September 11 attacks, officials said.

Kelly, the police commissioner, said the officers who confronted Johnson had "a gun right in their face" and "responded quickly, and they responded appropriately".

"These officers, having looked at the tape myself, had absolutely no choice," he said.

A loaded magazine was found in Johnson's briefcase. Johnson legally bought the gun in Florida in 1991, but he didn't have a permit to possess it in New York City, authorities said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday said New York still is the safest big city in the country, on pace to have a record low number of murders this year.

"But we are not immune to the national problem of gun violence," he said of the shooting, which followed recent mass shootings at a Colorado movie theatre and a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.

Comments
  • boltonbarry - 2012-08-26 00:33

    I'm sorry but that is BAD Shooting.

      chaplinncharlie - 2012-08-26 02:36

      Spray and Pray is what they call it...

  • lacrimose.wolf - 2012-08-26 00:55

    In the USA over the last few years, there's been what we call here "an unwanted tendency" for people to pick up guns and go off and massacre mall, school, 'varsty and cinema goers. Or, in this instance, a colleague who has irritated someone. So really what's the diffs between ZA and USA? Apart from the fact that in the USA it's inevitably "a lone gunman" whereas here it's usually a group. The cause and effect are the same. People who have no problem solving skills and no impulse control, who in their warped minds believe that killing to express their unhappiness & frustration is the answer. These minds can be further disturbed by muti, movies, games, drugs or a mangled internalisation of a belief system. Or all of the above. Two NY cops turn out to be as poorly trained and frightened into incompetence as some of ours. Will we be more or less accepting or forgiving because this happened in NY and not on a hill or highway in Africa?

  • richard.kumm.3 - 2012-08-26 03:05

    Everyone is quick to criticise SA police action where miners were shot and killed. It appears that an investigation is taking place but what about the negligent actions taken by police in the Empire State Building shootings? The police commissioner was quick to state that the officers had no choice. ???????????????????

      danny.levin.351 - 2012-08-26 18:35

      Richard, no matter how many other iditos shoot indiscriminately and injur / kill unarmed people who did not pose IMMEDIATE DANGER to themit will never justify that our chops are able to discharge 400 rounds in 2 minutes into a crowd. yest, they were armed but so are all the idiots that go rioting under the pretext of "protest" in our country. with over 30 meters between the closest miner to the cops in Marikana this could and should have been dealt with one or two AIMED shots at those who held a firearm.

  • ostumke - 2012-08-26 08:19

    so is the anti gun lobbyist going to take away cops guns as well?as for South Africa see it happens everywhere!

  • PappaLiefde - 2012-08-26 08:28

    16 shots to bring down a suspect at point blank range? Seriously? What ever happened to firearms competency training? Talk about trigger happy...

  • raymon.mcnelly - 2012-08-26 09:12

    Wow! I would have thought it a joke If it wasn't such a tragedy .

  • bob.small.7547 - 2012-08-26 09:42

    Typical USA police...total overkill! They just shoot wildly and keep shooting....More bystanders shot than the perpetrator himself! They need old school SAP to teach them how it is done!

  • brendon.nel.7 - 2012-08-26 12:10

    Silly yanks. What happens when u watch to many gangsta movies.

  • danny.levin.351 - 2012-08-26 18:31

    They were within arm reach of him, yet managed to hit 9 innocent bystanders and "needed" to fire 16 rounds? this is a situation where 2 shots to his chest would have been sufficient. It looks like they train their cops just as bad as our local chops...

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