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Nine wounded after gunman kills former boss near Empire State Building

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TWC News: Nine wounded after gunman kills former boss near Empire State Building
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An armed man was killed by police and nine bystanders wounded by gunfire near the Empire State Building Friday morning after investigators say he fatally shot his former boss just moments before.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly says at 9:03 a.m. the gunman, identified as Jeffrey Johnson, 58, of Manhattan confronted a former boss at Hazan Imports, located at 10 West 33rd Street.

Johnson, armed with a .45-caliber handgun, then allegedly fired three shots at his victim, identified as Steve Ercolino, 41.

Kelly says Johnson then proceeded to walk east on West 33rd Street but was followed by a construction worker who alerted two officers posted outside the landmark skyscraper's Fifth Avenue entrance.

As they approached Johnson, Kelly says he pulled the gun from a bag he was carrying and pointed it at the officers.

Kelly says the two officers then fired a total of 14 shots, killing him. A total of nine civilians were wounded in the gunfire exchange.

Commissioner Kelly says investigators believe police may be responsible for some of the injuries.

Six of the wounded bystanders were taken to Bellevue Hospital. Three others were brought to New York-Presbyterian Cornell Hospital.

Their injuries are said to be non-life threatening.

"I ask everyone to keep the victims in their thoughts and in their prayers. This is a terrible tragedy and there's no doubt that the situation would have been even more tragic, but for some extraordinary acts of heroism," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Outside the hospitals, family and friends scrambled to find out information about their loved ones.

One person who spoke with NY1 says his sister was shot in the leg, but is doing okay and was looking forward to being released.

"The bullet still lodged inside. Like I said the doctors don't want to let her go until everything is fine," the woman's brother said. "She's fine. She's a little restless. She just wants to go home and get this over with."

"I see my friend laying on the floor bleeding. She was covering up her wound and trying to keep pressure on her wounds. So I was just there trying to keep her calm," said one concerned friend.

Police say Johnson worked at Hazan Imports, an accessories company, for six years but had been at odds with Ercolino after being laid off last year.

Investigators confirm the gun used was from Spain but were still looking into whether or not it was legal. Police say they found one clip inside the weapon and a magazine inside the briefcase Johnson was carrying.

For most of the day, a stretch of 34th Street and Fifth Avenue was closed to traffic as police continued their investigation.

All streets have since reopened.

Friday's incident was not the first time gunfire rang out at or near the Empire State Building.

On February 23 1997, Palestinian immigrant Ali Abu Kamal opened fire on the Observation Deck killing one person and injuring six others before turning the gun on himself.

One-hundred people were on the Observation Deck on the 86th floor at the time. Two children were rushed to area hospitals after being trampled as people ran for their lives.

Kamal, who had been in the country less than two months, died of his wounds.

It's believed he was motivated at least in part by anger over the treatment of Palestinians.

In response to Friday's shooting, Malkin Holdings, the Empire State Building's supervisor, released a statement which read, in part, "This unfortunate event had nothing to do with the Empire State Building or with terrorism. The Empire State Building and its Observatories remained open throughout, and continue to be open and operating. At no time was there any related activity in the building. We express our deepest concern for those innocents who were hurt and our appreciation to the NYPD."

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