Two Die In Shooting Near Empire State Building

Originally published on August 24, 2012 7:47 pm
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Audie Cornish. It was a terrifying morning for commuters and tourists near the Empire State Building in New York. A gunman killed one person before he was shot by police. At least nine other people were also injured by gunfire outside the iconic building. From New York, NPR's Joel Rose reports.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Witnesses say the shooting began during morning rush hour.

GLORIA WALKER: About 9:05, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. And then I went flying down the street running.

ROSE: Gloria Walker(ph) was on her way from Penn Station to her office near the Empire State Building when she heard the gunshots ring out on 33rd Street. Walker ran inside, but she came back out a few minutes later to look.

WALKER: And then I saw the shooter laying over there in front of the Empire State Building, just laying there. And then the police came and they covered him up.

ROSE: Police identified the suspect as 58-year-old Jeffrey Johnson of Manhattan. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Johnson had been laid off about a year ago from his job at a women's apparel company in the neighborhood.

RAY KELLY: In front of the building, Johnson produced the pistol and fired at close range, striking his 41-year-old victim in the head.

ROSE: Kelly told reporters that Johnson began walking away from the scene of the initial shooting, but he was followed by a construction worker who had watched from a nearby scaffold and notified two police officers, who were stationed outside the entrance to the Empire State Building.

KELLY: As the two officers approached Johnson, he pulled his .45-calibur semiautomatic pistol from his bag and fired on the officers, who returned fire, killing him. An additional nine individuals were either wounded or grazed during the exchange.

ROSE: Officials said it wasn't clear how many shots Johnson actually fired. They said it was possible that some of the bystanders were inadvertently shot by police. All of the injured were taken to local hospitals and expected to recover.


ROSE: The streets around the Empire State Building remained closed for much of the day, as police searched for shell casings and other evidence, disrupting life in one of New York's busiest neighborhoods. Mayor Michael Bloomberg described the shooting as a tragedy and an exception in a city that has seen a steady decline in its murder rate.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: And New York City, as you know, is the safest big city in the country, and we are on pace to have a record low number of murders this year. But we are not immune to the national problem of gun violence.

ROSE: This is the third high-profile incident of gun violence in the past few weeks, including the shooting sprees last month at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado; and this month, at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. If those events seemed distant from the everyday lives of New Yorkers, today's shootings definitely did not. Joel Rose, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.