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NY designer shoots ex-colleague

In this frame grab from WABC-TV, emergency personnel respond to reports of several people being shot outside the Empire State Building, Friday, Aug. 24, 2012, in New York. Authorities say the shooter is dead. (AP Photo/WABC-TV)
In this frame grab from WABC-TV, emergency personnel respond to reports of several people being shot outside the Empire State Building, Friday, Aug. 24, 2012, in New York. Authorities say the shooter is dead. (AP Photo/WABC-TV)
Police crime scene tape blocks 34th Street at Fifth Avenue after a multiple shooting outside the Empire State Building (AP)
Bystanders and a police officer on Fifth Avenue after a multiple shooting outside the Empire State Building, New York (AP)
Police on a Fifth Avenue as they investigate a multiple shooting outside the Empire State Building, New York (AP)

A women's accessories designer has fatally shot a vice president from his former company outside the Empire State Building in New York, causing a chaotic showdown with police.

Officers gunned down the suspect and at least nine others were wounded, some by stray police gunfire, authorities said.

The shooting set off chaos at the height of the summer travel season and just after the morning rush hour. Police on their regular anti-terrorism duties in the tourist shopping area rushed to the scene.

"People were yelling 'Get down! Get down!'" said Marc Engel, who was on a bus in the area when he heard the shots. "It took about 15 seconds, a lot of 'pop, pop, pop, pop,' one shot after the other."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said some victims may have been hit by police bullets as officers confronted the gunman. The wounded victims included five women and four men, aged 20 to 56, authorities said. All were expected to survive.

"This was a terrible tragedy," Mr Bloomberg told a press conference. "We are not immune to the national problem of gun violence." Mr Bloomberg has spoken out in recent weeks for gun control after mass shootings at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and a theatre in Colorado, but many politicians have hesitated to approach the sensitive issue, especially in a national election year.

Police identified the gunman as Jeffrey Johnson, 58, a former designer of women's accessories who was laid off last year. They had little details yet about his background, including any criminal record.

Wearing a suit and tie and carrying a briefcase, Johnson wordlessly walked up to Hazan Import Corp. vice president Steven Ercolino, put a gun to his head and fired three times, according to authorities and witnesses.

"Jeffrey just came from behind two cars, pulled out his gun, put it up to Steve's head and shot him," said Carol Timan, whose daughter, Irene, was walking to Hazan Imports at the time with Ercolino.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Johnson and Mr Ercolino had traded accusations of harassment when Johnson worked at Hazan Import. Law enforcement officials said that Johnson had been angry that Mr Ercolino wasn't promoting his products.

PA

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