Empire State gunman planned to not return home: NY police

NEW YORK Sun Aug 26, 2012 2:34pm EDT

1 of 18. A hand sticks out from underneath a sheet covering a body on 33rd St after a shooting at the Empire State Building in New York August 24, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The man who shot and killed a former co-worker and was himself killed by police near New York City's Empire State Building left his keys with his landlord on Friday to allow renovation of his apartment and apparently intended to never return, a police source said on Sunday.

Jeffrey Johnson, 58, an out-of-work accessories designer, killed Steve Ercolino, with whom he had been feuding, on Friday in midtown Manhattan. Nine bystanders were wounded as the result of police gunfire, three hit by bullets and six injured by ricocheted fragments.

"He left the keys in an envelope for the landlord with no intention of ever coming back," said a police source familiar with the investigation who declined to be identified.

Police contested a report in the New York Post that Johnson was being evicted, but did say Johnson was forced out of his home.

"It was not an eviction," the source said. "Johnson was on a sub-lease as a sub-tenant. The tenant informed Johnson he would have to leave during renovation of the apartment by the owner."

Detectives searching Johnson's apartment found books on training and fighting skills such as "Techniques and Equipment of the Deadly Marksmen Snipers" and "Attack Proof - the Ultimate Guide to Personal Protection," the source said.

They also found a plastic case with 15 rounds of .45 caliber ammunition, the same kind he used to shoot Ercolino, and police planned to examine the contents of Johnson's home computer for more clues to his motive, the source said.

Johnson had been laid off a year ago from Hazan Imports, across the street from the Empire State Building, where he was locked in a dispute with the victim, police said. Johnson claimed Ercolino had failed to sell enough of his creations and held a grudge, they said.

Animosity between Johnson and Ercolino had prompted them to file complaints about each other with police in April 2011, police said.

Ercolino, 41, was a salesman at Hazan. He lived with his girlfriend in Hoboken, New Jersey.

(Reporting by Chris Francescani; Writing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Vicki Allen)

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