A fired worker stalked his boss down a Midtown street, shot him dead and then turned his weapon on police officers — and in the ensuing gun battle he was killed and nine pedestrians were struck, some by cop bullets, Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said today.
The 9 a.m. mayhem sent commuters and tourists in a panicked scramble from the jam-packed intersection of 34th Street and Fifth Avenue.
Bloomberg identified the shooter as Jeffrey Johnson, 53, who had been fired a year ago from Hazan Imports at 10 W. 33rd Street, around the corner from the scene.
Johnson opened fire with a .45-caliber pistol on the Fifth Avenue side of the buidling.
He returned there yesterday with a .45 caliber handgun and stalked his victim, a former co-worker.
After fatally shooting his 41-year-old victim in the head, he walked down 33rd Street with the gun concealed and was confronted by a pair of construction workers who gave chase, said Kelly.
At that point, cops on anti-terror patrol drew their weapons on Johnson and he opened fire.
“The guy has his gun out and is trying to shoot police officers,” Bloomberg said.
The cops unleashed a torrent of shots, cutting down the suspect and possibly hitting some of the nine innocent bystanders who were caught in the mayhem.
One of the victims, a woman from Woodlawn, Bronx, in her 20s, was on her way to Dunkin Donuts for her morning coffee when she heard the gunfire and realized she’d been shot.
"She saw blood and said 'Who got shot?' and then she looked down and it was her. She never saw the gunman,” said her pal, Chris Collins, a 44-year-old lab tech at NYU.
“I said, ‘Erica, is that you?' She was lying on the floor bleeding. She said, ‘I don’t want to die, I hope I don’t die. I don’t want to lose my leg.’
“In the ambulance we were laughing about it on the way to the hospital. There was another man in the ambulance - he got shot in the butt.”
The victims were taken to New York and Bellevue Hospitals.
“This is the last thing you are expecting to see walking to work – someone shot dead in broad daylight in Midtown,” said Sid Dinsay, 38, who works in a PR firm on Fifth Avenue.
“I am shocked – something like this is enough to rattle your nerves. My nerves are rattled right now.”
Dinsay said he heard noise on 33rd street and saw construction workers running on scaffolding of Empire State Building, looking down onto the street. He thought a piece of equipment had fallen.
“I saw a guy lying there covered in blood,” he said. “He was in his late 30s. People around him were crying, a police scooter was whizzing by. It was chaos.”
Austrian visitor Raphael Riegler, 19, said he heard the shots while lining up for tour boat tickets.
“Behind me the shooting started. In the middle of the street and a man in a blue jacket fell down,” he said, referring to a tour bus operator.
“Another man was shot in the foot. He tried to run run run, he fell at the bus stop.
“We ran for cover into a store. Police shot the aggressor, I hope he is dead.
“I’ve never seen anything like that.”
The FBI is assisting in the investigation, which has caused a traffic nightmare in Midtown that has effectively shut down all of the streets around the scene.
Eeerily, just minutes before the mayhem, Mayor Bloomberg was warning about the dangers of “too many guns on the streets” on his weekly radio show.
“The argument guns don’t kill people, people kill people is one of the most disingenuous things you can say,” he said shortrly before 9 a.m. while discussing tougher guns laws being proposed in Albany.
“It does take a person to pull the trigger, but if they didn’t have the gun... We are the only developed country in the world with this problem.”
Additional reporting by Isabel Vincent and David Seifman
Reprinted with permission from the New York Post