Who Was Jeffrey Johnson? Details Emerge About The Empire State Building Shooter

on August 24 2012 9:46 PM
As many as 10 people shot outside of Empire State Building
Jeffrey Johnson returned the location of his old job at the Hazan Import Corp. in New York, killing former co-worker Steve Ercolino on Friday. Since the shooting, details have emerged about who Johnson was. Twitter / @NYCPhotos

In the wake of news that two people were killed and nine others wounded Friday near the Empire State Building in New York, many wondered who the gunman was. Upon arriving at the scene, police shot and killed 58-year-old Jeffrey Johnson, a former employee of the Hazan Import Corp. who had returned to the business location bent on revenge.

The seeds of Johnson's shooting spree in midtown Manhattan were sown about a year ago when he was fired from his job at Hazan, where he had worked for six years designing women's accessories, according to the Washington Post. The same year he was fired, Johnson reportedly told co-worker Steve Ercolino, "I am going to kill you." And, on Friday, Johnson did indeed kill Ercolino, who was a vice president at Hazan.

Ercolino and Johnson were involved in a dispute over allegations of harassment, according to the Huffington Post. Ercolino, 41, died after being shot in the head. Global Grind reported he had been Hazan's vice president of sales since December 2005.

Johnson -- who lived alone with two cats on the Upper East Side of New York -- is known to have gone to a nearby McDonald's for breakfast every morning, the Los Angeles Times reported. But, on Friday morning, New York Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly told the New York Times, Johnson went to Midtown, bringing a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun with him, a weapon he was not licensed to have in New York, according to an NBC affiliate.

Neighbors described Johnson as a quiet man who seemed to live in solitude, according to the Huffington Post. One neighbor who was familiar with Johnson said his suits were "immaculate" and that she often heard him vacuuming his apartment. Johnson was described as almost always wearing a suit and tie.

"This guy was very mellow. Very mellow and very lonely," said Guillermo Suarez, the building superintendent.

The shooter's LinkedIn page said that he went to school at the Ringling School of Art and Design. There is no mention of his time at Hazan, but he did list himself as the sole proprietor of St. Jolly T-Shirt Art, which specialized in turning online art into wearable clothing. The company's website makes it clear that many of the designs centered on cars and motorcycles.

The New York Daily News noted that Johnson wore a business suit Friday morning and carried a briefcase full of extra ammunition. Witnesses told media outlets that he appeared totally calm and under control before being approached by police, who killed Johnson after he shot at them.

The Daily News also wrote that Johnson had tried to gain access to the Empire State Building, but was turned away because of his history with Hazan. Ercolino filed a complaint in April of last year after Johnson threatened to kill him, and each accused the other of workplace harassment.

On Friday, Johnson shot the victim when Ercolino was walking up to the building with his morning breakfast.