Fil-Am on Empire State shooting: I thought it was a nail gun
Fil-Am Stephanie Azarcon was waiting for an elevator at the lobby of her midtown Manhattan building at 10 West 33rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues when she and other people heard loud popping sounds coming from just outside the building.
“I thought it was a nail gun from construction,” Azarcon of Woodside, N.Y. told the Filipino Reporter.
“It was very loud...until we realized they were gunshots.”
Azarcon was referring to the chaotic shooting in the morning of Aug. 24 when Jeffrey Johnson, 58, who lost his job a year ago, confronted on a sidewalk his former coworker Steve Ercolino, 41, and shot him at point blank range with a .45 caliber semiautomatic handgun.
Ercolino was shot five times in the head and face and died on the spot, according to the medical examiner.
Both the suspect and the victim used to work together on the 7th floor in the same building as Azarcon, just across the Empire State Building.
Azarcon works in the building’s penthouse for handbag manufacturer Interasian Resources.
“Everyone was shaken by this tragedy,” said Azarcon.
“But everything is back to normal, thank God.”
Following the shooting, the suspect concealed the handgun in a black bag and walked away from the scene and headed to Fifth Avenue in front of the Empire State Building.
But a construction worker followed the suspect and alerted cops.
When two police officers confronted Johnson near 34th Street on Fifth Avenue, he reportedly raised his gun and aimed it at the officers.
Although he did not get off any shots, both officers fired 16 shots, hitting Johnson fatally in the chest, arms and legs.
Nine civilians — four of them women — were hit by stray bullets, ricochets and fragments, reports said, and all nine were rushed to Bellevue Hospital by ambulances.
The incident occurred outside the Empire State Building, but there was no connection to the landmark building, said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The Filipino Reporter, located on the 28th floor of the Empire State Building, received numerous calls and e-mails immediately following the shooting asking for the safety of the staff.
Two of the calls came from the Philippine Consulate General.
Reports said Ercolino was vice president of sales at Hazan Import Corp., while Johnson had worked there for about six years as a women’s clothing designer until he lost the job last year.
Reports said the two had been in a longstanding dispute and had even filed complaints against each other with police in April 2011.
The Associated Press reported that the two “had traded accusations of harassment when Johnson worked there, and law enforcement officials said that Johnson had been angry that Ercolino wasn’t promoting his clothing products.
A law enforcement official told NBC New York that at the time of the shooting, Johnson was being booted out of his Upper East Side apartment.
The owner reportedly wanted to do renovations and asked Johnson to move out in the next couple of weeks.
That added pressure may have helped put him over the edge, the police source said.
Ercolino lived with his girlfriend in Hoboken, N.J.
The incident brought back to the forefront the issue on tighter restrictions on guns, with New York politicians urging stronger gun control.
“Our current laws have failed to protect the public from gun violence,” said State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
“We must redouble our efforts to protect public safety so that New Yorkers don’t have to live in fear of the next deadly attack.”
“There have been far too many victims of gun violence across the country, and today’s incident points to the need for sensible gun laws that ensure the safety and security of all,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
Bloomberg went as far as challenging the presidential candidates to tackle the issue. - Filipino Reporter
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