NYPD: Unclear why Empire State shooter chose day

August 30, 2012 - 2:36 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — The laid off clothing designer who shot his former colleague to death outside the Empire State Building last week told his landlord he was leaving — and not returning, police said Thursday.

Jeffrey Johnson left his keys and said he wouldn't be back after Friday, the day his former co-worker Steven Ercolino was fatally shot. Police shot and killed Johnson when he pointed a gun at them after killing Ercolino and slipping into the busy rush hour crowd on Fifth Avenue. Nine bystanders were wounded by police gunfire, ricochets and fragments. They suffered non-life-threatening gunshot and graze wounds.

Johnson's landlord wanted him out of his Upper East Side apartment temporarily to do work, and Kelly said Johnson had told him that "things would be taken care of" by Friday.

Investigators searched his apartment and went through his computer, but it was not clear why he chose that day. Johnson had been laid off more than a year ago from the import company Hazan where he worked with Ercolino, who was a vice president for sales. Police said Johnson blamed Ercolino for his job loss because he didn't properly promote Johnson's line of women's T-shirts. The animus grew between them to include harassment complaints to police, authorities said.

Wearing a business suit and carrying an attache bag, Johnson waited for Eroclino outside the office near the Empire State Building and at 9:03 a.m. opened fire, then slipped the gun into his bag and calmly walked up the street, police said. Two construction workers who witnessed the shooting followed him and notified the two officers stationed outside the skyscraper as part of the department's counterterrorism efforts since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Video shows Johnson turning, facing the officers and raising his weapon as they open fire.

Kelly said the department is doing an exhaustive review of the shooting, which is standard practice for any police-involved shooting. He and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have said they believe the officers followed proper protocol.