A gunman opened fire near the Empire State Building in New York City Friday morning (Aug 24), killing a former co-worker, before being shot and killed himself by police officers.

At least 8 other people were shot by the gunman, identified as 58-year-old Jeffrey Johnson, who police say was a disgruntled former employee of a company located inside the popular landmark skyscraper.

The 8 other shooting victims, some some grazed by bullets, others hit directly, suffered non-life threatening injuries, and are all expected to survive.

Law enforcement officials say that the shooting occurred around 9 a.m. on the Fifth Avenue side of the Empire State Building, a time of day when the sidewalks surrounding it are packed with pedestrians and merchants are opening up their shops.

Armed with a .45-caliber handgun, Jeffrey Johnson, a clothing designer who got laid off about a year ago from apparel company Hazan Imports, fired three times at the company’s 41-year-old office manager, shooting him in the head on the front sidewalk on West 33rd Street.

Witnesses say the shooter then tucked away his gun and tried to walk away, but a quick-thinking construction worker who saw the shooting followed Johnson and pointed him out to two nearby officers on foot patrol — a security detail regularly assigned to patrol the 1,454-foot skyscraper since the 9/11 terror attacks, officials said.

A chaotic gunfight ensued, with nine bystanders injured, and Johnson himself was shot and killed by police, who admit that some of the wounded people may have been struck by their bullets.

“Police confronted him and asked him to stop,” says one witness. “Right in front of Fifth Avenue, he opened his briefcase and pulled out a gun and started shooting.”

“People were yelling ‘Get down! Get down!'” said Marc Engel, an accountant who was the area when he heard the shots. “It took about 15 seconds, a lot of `pop, pop, pop, pop, one shot after the other.”

By the time the shots stopped, he says, the sidewalks were covered with blood. One person was “dripping enough blood to leave a stream,” Engel said.

NYPD officials say that two of their officers fired 14 rounds at Johnson from about five feet away.

Police said Johnson’s semi-automatic weapon was equipped to fire at least eight rounds, and at least one round was left in the clip.

Immediately following the shootout, crowds of tourists and people on their way to work gathered along 34th Street, which was promptly shut down by police.

“There was blood on the sidewalk,” another witness said. “It was like a scene out of CSI, but it was real. I was literally shaking.”

NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly said that Johnson and his victim reportedly had a history of problems, with each accusing the other of workplace harassment.

Johnson worked at the company near the building for about six years and was laid off because of downsizing, Kelly said.

New York officials have made a point to note that the shooting was in no way a terrorist attack.

[NYDN, AP, USA Today]

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