Eleven people were shot at the Empire State Building this morning, the majority of whom were shot by police, sources now tell the Voice.
Mayor Mike Bloomberg confirmed at a press conference this morning that there’s a chance some of the victims were accidentally shot by police who were trying to take out the initial gunman, 53-year-old Jeffery Johnson. We’re told eight of those wounded were shot by police, who were returning fire at Johnson, who pointed a 45-caliber handgun at officers and witnesses say fired at least one round. However, it’s unclear whether he actually fired the weapon.
Before any alarm bells are rung, it should be noted that Johnson drew his gun on officers before fatally meeting the business end of a cop’s service weapon, so the police were more than justified in taking him out. But the fact remains: eight people were shot by police this morning.
The scene at the Empire State Building this morning, by all accounts, was pretty chaotic, as people ran for cover as gunshots rang out on a crowded street in midtown Manhattan.
According to our source, officers fired 16 rounds at Johnson, many of which ricocheted off of concrete planters and struck fleeing passersby.
It’s unclear what type of gun was used by officers. Our source says the cops’ triggermen were part of the counter-terrorism detail known as “Hercules,” members of which typically carry M4 semi-automatic assault rifles — which probably isn’t the weapon of choice for such a densely populated area.
One witness told Voice reporter Greg Howard this afternoon that he heard about 12 shots, and it sounded like they came from an automatic weapon.
It was somewhat similar to another recent cop-shooting, also in a touristy area packed with people. In that shooting, only the suspect was hit by officers’ bullets.
Earlier this month, police shot a man who was marching through Times Square with a knife, threatening officers. Authorities fired multiple rounds at the man after he supposedly lunged at the officers. As you can see in the video below, there were several people standing behind the knife-wielding man, and downwind of the officers’ bullets — none of whom were hit when the police opened fire.
Again, it’s unclear whether Johnson actually fired at the officers, or what type of weapon police used to shoot Johnson and, subsequently, eight other people; authorities are still investigating the shooting.
Check back for updates.
Graham Rayman contributed to this report
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 24, 2012