NEW YORK (AP) — Jeffrey Johnson hid behind a car in his business suit and tie near the Empire State Building, waiting for the man he blamed for costing him his job. He put a gun to the executive’s head and fired five times, then walked off with his briefcase into the morning rush of midtown Manhattan.
Minutes later, Johnson was dead in front of the landmark skyscraper, killed by police yesterday in a chaotic confrontation that wounded nine other people, sent bullets ricocheting and left sidewalks near one of the world’s best-known landmarks spattered with blood.
The bystanders were likely hit by police officers’ stray gunfire, some of them bullets that rebounded off of planters in front of the skyscraper and grazed pedestrians. The two officers fired 16 shots, but police believe Johnson only pointed the gun at them and didn’t fire, investigators said.
Startled New Yorkers looked up from their morning routines in the crowded business district to see people sprawled in the streets bleeding and a tarp covering the body in front of the tourist landmark.
“I was on the bus and people were yelling ‘get down, get down,” said accountant Marc Engel. “I was thinking, ‘you people are crazy, no one is shooting in the middle of midtown Manhattan at 9 o’clock in the morning.”
It was over in seconds he said — “a lot of pop, pop, pop, pop, one shot after the other.” Afterwards he saw sidewalks littered with the wounded, including one man “dripping enough blood to leave a stream.”
Johnson, 58, who neighbors had seen leave his apartment in a suit every day since he was laid off a year ago — often returning with breakfast from McDonald’s — had worked for six years for Hazan Imports and was let go when the company downsized, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.