NEW YORK, NEW YORK – A disgruntled former worker sparked chaos in front of the Empire State Building on Friday when he shot and killed a co-worker and engaged in a gun battle with police, leaving at least eight others wounded, authorities said.
The shooter, identified as Jeffrey Johnson, 58, was killed in an exchange of gunfire with two police officers.
The officers fired 14 rounds during the incident after Johnson turned his gun on them, according to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Some of the wounded people may have been hit in the crossfire or by ricocheting bullets, he said.
Johnson was apparently laid off from his job as a designer of women’s accessories at Hazan Imports last year.
Clad in a business suit and carrying a briefcase, the gunman apparently had a longstanding dispute with the victim over allegations of harassment in the workplace, police said.
Both men had filed prior complaints. But on Friday morning, police say, Johnson fatally shot the 41-year-old man.
Police initially reported that nine people were wounded in the incident, but they later revised that number to eight.
A construction worker followed the gunman after the initial gunshots and alerted officers.
Two police officers were being treated at a Manhattan hospital, though no injuries are considered life-threatening, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
Witnesses recount chaotic, unsettling scene at Empire State shooting
Johnson used a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun and was carrying extra ammunition in his briefcase during the attack, according to police.
The former Manhattan resident does not appear to have had a criminal record, but authorities are still checking, Bloomberg added.
Witnesses said police shot the man at least three times.
“It’s just a crazy scene here,” said Rebecca Fox, who works across the street from the famous New York skyscraper. She said she had been getting coffee and had her headphones on when she saw people running.
Fox said she saw a woman who had been shot near a brewery, as well as blood splattered on the sidewalk.
One witness — 22-year-old Max Kaplan — said he heard at least nine shots and saw ambulances race to the scene.
“We’re all very shaken up at the office,” he said.
Aaron Herman, a CNN iReporter, painted a portrait of confusion.
“It was a little chaotic. Police had barricaded the area, and I saw one woman who was a victim, I think she had been grazed,” he said. “Some said they heard around three ‘pops’ and ran into nearby local stores to be safe.”
The White House said top aides told President Barack Obama about the shooting around 9:30 a.m. The shooting does not appear to be linked to terrorism, authorities said.
What to know about the Empire State Building
Local and federal authorities who converged on the building around 9 a.m. closed several streets around Fifth Avenue and 34th Street, snarling traffic in the heart of Manhattan.
Shortly after the incident, Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital Center reported that it was treating six victims suffering from gunshot wounds. None of the injuries were considered life-threatening.
The Empire State Building is one of the most famous skyscrapers in the world and one of New York City’s best-known tourist attractions.
Each year, about 4 million people visit the building’s two observation decks. At more than 1,453 feet tall, the landmark building reaches more than a quarter-mile into the sky.
The area also typically maintains a large security presence.
“There’s always a focus and concentration on the building,” retired police officer Lou Palumbo said. “That building gets special attention.”
The Empire State Building Co. said in a statement Friday that “the building is fully operational at this time” and that police are investigating the incident.