Police revealed on Saturday that all nine of the victims wounded during the Empire State Shooting were shot by police, according to ballistics evidence. The two officers involved in the shooting, Officer Craig Matthews and Officer Robert Sinishtaj fired their weapons at the gunman, who was pointing a .45 caliber at them, hitting not only the gunman, who had been laid off from Hazan Fashion Corporation, but also several members of the public nearby. Many have criticized police for their actions, but the officers may simply have ben trying to avoid it escalating into a hostage situation.
The shooter, Jeffrey Johnson, had shot and killed an ex-coworker moments before outside of the office where they had both worked. That co-worker's name was Steve Ercolino, and the two had a history of interactions, stemming back to before Johnson's layoff a year earlier. The property manager of the office building, John Koch, said that security footage had revealed the two having a physical altercation in an elevator.
The shooting happened at just after 9am, and the streets filled with people. According to police, Johnson simply walked away from the scene after he gunned down Ercolino and down the sidewalk as if nothing had happened. Construction workers nearby notified police of Johnson's location. The two officers mentioned made contact with him in front of one of New York's most well-known landmarks, the Empire State Building. The building was still open to tourists on Saturday, but it is likely that the number of visitors will go down, at least for a couple of weeks.
The L.A. Times reported that Johnson ended up with 10 bullets in his body as a result of the 16 bullets fired by the two police officers, nine from Sinishaj, 40 and seven from Matthews, 39. Three of the passers-by were struck by whole bullets, and the other six victims were simply grazed by fragments, treated and then released. The three not released were reported in stable condition. This means that the police only hit Johnson 10 times out of 16 shots. What is surprising is how many bullets missed, at very short-range.
Johnson apparently was very eccentric, and had designed tee shirts for the company where he and Ercolino had worked. He wore his suit every day, even when he was out enjoying his favorite hobby, bird watching. Security footage caught the shootout between Johnson and police. The video is below.
A cellphone video was also captured that showed the aftermath of the shooting, including several victims on the ground after being hit by police bullets.
It is unclear if the officers that were involved in the Empire State shooting will face any charges or be suspended from their duties. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters that the two police officers had no choice but to shoot Johnson, saying that he believes it was "handled well." Johnson was 58.
Commissioner Kelly may consider it handled well, but why do the cops in the movies never shoot at someone who is in the middle of a crowd. Why is real life so different?