The shooting occurred at 9:07 AM on Fifth Avenue and 34th Street, outside the front of the entrance to the famed landmark’s observation deck. According to authorities, the gunman – identified as Jeffrey Johnson, 53 – had been fired from his position as a designer of women’s accessories at Hazan Imports last year, and had returned to collect money he was still owed. After shooting someone at the company – first reported to be his supervisor, then reported to be a co-worker – in the face, killing him instantly, Johnson opened fire on others nearby the building, injuring nine.
Johnson’s shooting spree ended when he was shot and killed by two New York City police officers. Four of the wounded are said to be in serious condition, while the other five are in minor condition.
With over 21,000 people working in the 102-story building’s 1,000 businesses daily, the Empire State Building is the second-largest single office complex in the United States, after the Pentagon.
A woman who works in the building, Jill Greenwood, said that she heard a number of gunshots, and then watched a stream of people running out on to the street because they thought the shooting had taken place inside the building. “We heard these gunshots, it sounded like fireworks. So, we got up and went to the window and looked down,” said Greenwood. “I got out of a cab right there five minutes before it happened,” she added.
Some of the shooting victims were found lying inside the lobby of the Empire State Building, while others were discovered sprawled out on the street. In addition to police, a contingent of FBI agents was on the scene.
“I was sitting outside, and I heard three shots first and I saw three people running up to Park Avenue away from the Empire State Building,” a woman told WCBS-TV. “Then we heard it again and it was like 10 to 15 shots at one time. Then we saw the whole block, like over 50 people running to Park Avenue.”
“I heard the gunshots,” said Dahlia Anister, an employee at an office near the building. “It was like pop, pop, pop. It was definitely in a bunch.”
The shooting took place at the height of New York City’s bustling summer tourist season, outside a key tourist attraction, alarming tourists and commuters. Police immediately cordoned off the area around the building. The Empire State Building is located just two blocks from Pennsylvania Station and several blocks from Grand Central Terminal, two of New York City’s main transportation hubs.
“People started running, saying somebody has a gun, so I just ran the other way. I was scared,” related Adrianne Lapar, 27, who works in the Empire State Building.
“I was pulling some boxes out of my truck and right in front of my truck I heard about five gunshots,” another witness told radio station WINS. “I turned around to the left and I saw a man lying vertically with blood coming out of his head.”
“I just asked one of the folks who was running by me what had happened and they said ‘someone was shot,'” Sid Dinsay, a former New York City Office of Emergency Management official, told WCBS-AM Newsradio 88. “I take a few more steps down the block and there was a deceased person on the sidewalk, apparently the victim of gunshots and lifeless and just lying there.”
Based on current information, the FBI has ruled out any connection with terrorism.