By latest reports, the shooter who killed one person and left nine bystanders wounded (though some may have been shot by the police) outside the Empire State Building this morning has now been identified as 53-year-old Jeffrey Johnson. The disgruntled former employee of Hazan Imports Corporation was fired over a year ago, and had been involved in an “ongoing dispute” in a legal case with the man he fatally shot.
At about 10:45 a.m., when I arrived on the scene, the Empire State Building was still allowing tourists to enter the observatory, but were only allowing people in via the 33rd Street entrance. All other entrances were blocked by guards inside the building, and 34th Street between 5th and 6th was not accessible to the public. A bewildered looking man who had been on the street at the time of the crime said the scene “looked like a war zone. I didn’t see it, I heard the shots. Cops were everywhere with guns in the air.”
By 11:15 a.m. a police line blocked the south side of West 33rd Street some 30-40 feet away from the victim’s body (which was covered by blue plastic tarp). The investigation was still ongoing, and the crime scene appeared active. F.B.I. agents were canvassing the area, searching for bullet casings in the flowers around evidence marker number two. A woman who works for a company at 10 West 33rd Street had a gruesome photo of the body, which she showed the press. A reporter from Fox asked to film the photo, and the woman revealed she had been offered $5K for it already. The Fox reporter promptly called her boss to see if they could offer more.
At about 11:30, the police moved the yellow tape back another 100 feet, but three reporters, two men from Good Morning America, and Jen Chung, Gothamist Executive Editor and Co-founder, and I managed to escape into Foley’s Pub, effectively remaining within the original blockade.The police told us we were to remain in the pub while the body was moved, and would not be released until after the crime scene was clear.
The pub owner, a sinewy woman, lamented about how the delivery men were stuck on the other side of the line, but noted there were no customers anyway. She explained that this wasn't the first body she'd seen in front of her establishment, recalling a woman who had leapt to her death and landed outside her door. One reporter asked if she'd ever seen a shooting, and she responded: "I'm from Brooklyn, come on."
After 45 minutes of peering through the pub's windows, the owner opened the doors and stepped outside. Minutes later, we watched as the victim was zipped into the body bag. After two men lifted the body into the back of the crime unit and drove away, the tarp was removed. A scarlet puddle was visible just beneath the bed of flowers. The police signaled it was okay for us to leave, and I walked off, leaving the two reporters with the pub owner, all shaking their heads.