Commissioner Ray Kelly confirmed Saturday (Aug. 25) what Mayor Michael Bloomberg inferred one day earlier: NYPD officers were responsible for wounding nine at the Empire State Building. Kelly made the announcement in a press conference over the weekend, explaining that two officers unloaded a troth of bullets in an attempt to shoot assailant Jeffery Johnson who killed his former boss outside the building.

Johnson pointed his gun at officers, who fired until they finally hit him. The officers shot 16 rounds, hitting three bystanders with bullets, and six with fragments. “We had a witness that said that Johnson fired at the police, but the final count of the shells, it appears that that is not the case,” Kelly admitted.

One person injured, Erica Solar, was on her way to get coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts when she was hit in the leg. She is being treated at Bellevue Hospital. Another victim, 23-year-old Robert Asika got caught up in the gun battle on his way to work. “I saw a guy reach in his suit and he pulled out a gun,” Asika recalled. “The police officer shot him, and one of them shot me in the arm.”

Johnson, 53, lived on the city’s Upper East Side. It appears that his only intended target was Steven Ercolino whom he blamed for the failure of his t-shirt line. Ercolino previously filed a complaint against Johnson, claiming that he would eventually kill him. “It’s not something that should happen to a loving person like that,” said Ercolino’s brother, Paul. “He’s going to be so missed by everybody. He was a light of so many lives.”

With Kelly and Bloomberg speaking out against gun violence in the city, the recent turn of events has brought the department’s protocol into question. “The rule of thumb is that you do not put civilians in the line of fire, but the rule of thumb is also that you don’t let a murdered get away,” University of Southern California criminologist, Geoffrey P. Alpert told the New York Times.

According to the NYPD patrol guide, officers should refrain from firing if  “doing so will unnecessarily endanger innocent persons.”

The NYPD has concluded that the two officer—Officer Craig Matthews, and Officer Robert Sinishtaj—had no choice but to shoot the suspect. Both men are 15-year veterans of the force.


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Photo: New York Daily News

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