By Kadia Blagrove , FashionnStyle Reporter | Aug 27, 2012 12:16 PM EDT
Last week, New York City was shaken by the sudden shooting outside the Empire State Building early Friday morning (August 24). Details of the unexpected incident were scarce. It wasn't until Mayor Bloomberg gave a press conference around 11:30 a.m that morning, that the public received information on the shooter. In the early stages of the crime, the only thing known about the shooter was that he was sharply dressed in a grey suit. The well-dressed killer has now been identified as Jeffrey Johnson, aged 58.
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The unsuspected criminal was also revealed to have worked in the fashion industry. Johnson was a graphic designer for 15 years at Hazan Imports, a handbags and accessories firm where he worked on line sheets and catalogues. Hazan Imports hasn't made headlines since its 2003 lawsuit from Louis Vuitton for copyright infringement. The company is privately owned with estimated annual revenue of $5-$10 million and 10-19 employees. Due to the company downsizing two years ago, Johnson was laid off. Hazan Imports is located on 10 West 33rd street between 5th and 6th avenues - right by the Empire State Building.
According to police reports, Johnson had threatened to kill Ercolino back in April 2011. Johnson reportedly confronted his former manager Steve Ercolino, Vice President of Sales at Hazan Imports, on the sidewalk. After the quarrel Johnson shot Ercolino, 41, in the head with a .45-caliber pistol.
Police commissioner Raymond Kelly said the incident occurred at 9:03 a.m. in front of Hazan Imports, where the gunman, wearing a suit and tie and carrying a briefcase, walked up to Ercolino, put a gun to his head and fired three times, once in the head. Both men had accused each other of harassment in the past when Johnson was employed at the company, said Kelly.
Police arrived to the scene and shot Johnson to death. Nine people were wounded in the crossfire; it is undetermined whether they were wounded by the gunman or accidentally by the police. The only two fatalities were Johnson and Ercolino.
WWD reports: John Koch, the superintendent of the building where Hazan Imports is based, said that Johnson and Ercolino "didn't like each other." "He seemed like a pretty normal guy," Koch said of the gunman.
A source at Hazan Imports insists that Johnson's dismissal was nothing personal. "It wasn't like he [Johnson] did anything wrong," the source said. "It was simply economics."
The murdered victim, Ercolino, was a New York native who got his start in the fashion industry selling dresses in his father's apparel business. "Steve was with us for six or seven years," the source said. "He was a top salesman. His customers loved him. He had a personal connection with them. He was a great salesman who knew his craft." Ercolino's former co-worker at his previous job Jump apparel, Terry Friedman, president, said "He was a good guy. He didn't deserve to be shot. It's incomprehensible that someone can come up to you and shoot you on the street."
Ercolino lived with his fiancé in New Jersey. The victim's family and friends are preparing his Wednesday morning funeral at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in White Plains. "I'm in shock, it's just senseless," Ercolino's brother, Paul Ercolino, told CBS news. "It's just a very difficult time for the family here."
According to reports, after Johnson was laid off, he would still leave his East 82nd street apartment dressed in a tailored suit every day. He would wake up every morning to go to McDonalds for breakfast then return to his apartment. The gunman lived alone in a one-bedroom apartment that he was subletting from someone else. Detectives have sealed off his apartment and are continuing their investigation and searching for clues.
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