NEW YORK CITY — A gunman was killed and nine bystanders were injured Friday in a shootout near the Empire State Building in New York City, officials said on Saturday. The gunman had minutes earlier shot and killed a former co-worker.
The incident began at around 9 a.m. local time when 53-year-old Jeffrey Johnson was in a dispute with one of his former co-workers in front of Hazan Imports Corp. near the Empire State Building. Johnson allegedly produced a pistol and shot his 41-year-old victim in the head, killing him.
The gunman had been working as a designer of women's accessories at Hazan Imports Corp. for about six years until he was laid off last year due to a downsizing at the company. Details about the dispute with the 41-year-old victim, whose identity has not yet been released, were not immediately known.
"The subject then fled eastbound on West 33rd Street to Fifth Avenue when he walked northbound along the curb-line with a .45-caliber handgun secreted in a black bag that he had under his arm," New York Police Department (NYPD) Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said at a news conference.
A construction worker who had followed Johnson from the shooting at Hazan Imports Corp. alerted two uniformed police officers who were on post in front of the Empire State Building's Fifth Avenue entrance as part of the NYPD's counterterrorism coverage. The officers quickly approached Johnson as he attempted to flee the area.
"As the two officers approached Johnson he pulled his .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol from his bag and fired on the officers who returned fire, killing him," Kelly said. "An additional nine individuals were either wounded or grazed during the exchange, six of whom were removed to Bellevue Hospital and three to New York Presbyterian/Cornell Medical Center. All are not likely to die."
Police on Saturday said the nine people who were injured were hit by bullets from the officers, who fired a total of 16 rounds into a busy sidewalk. But Kelly defended the officers, saying they had no choice but to shoot Johnson, whose body was covered with 10 bullet wounds in the chest, arms and legs.