Empire State shooting: New Rochelle man followed gunman, flagged cops

NEWS 12 WESTCHESTER: New Rochelle construction worker led NYPD to Empire State Building shooter (Aug. 26, 2012)

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Brian Dillon was working on a loading dock outside the Empire State Building Friday afternoon when he saw a man in a light brown suit pumping shots into the head of another man on the sidewalk as terrified bystanders ran for cover.

The man, 58-year-old Jeffrey Johnson, started walking away into the Fifth Avenue crowd after he fatally shot his former colleague, Steven Ercolino, the vice president of Hazan Import Corp., a women's fashion clothing and accessories company.

In an interview with News12 Westchester, Dillon said he was determined not to let the shooter get away.

"He just murdered someone in broad daylight, calmly turning and walking away like it was something he did every day, and somehow thought he would get away with it," he said. "I couldn't let that happen."

He trailed Johnson down the street and flagged down two New York City police officers on patrol in the neighborhood. They confronted Johnson, who pulled out a gun and was shot to death. In the hail of gunfire, nine bystanders were wounded.

Dillon, 44, of New Rochelle, said he doesn't consider himself a hero.

"I think the cops are the heroes," the Yonkers native said. "They're the ones that put their lives on the line."

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said on Saturday that the two veteran NYPD officers appeared to have no choice but to shoot Johnson -- whose body had 10 bullet wounds in the chest, arms and legs -- when he whirled around and pointed a .45-caliber pistol at them as they approached him from behind on a crowded sidewalk.

Kelly said a preliminary investigation determined that three people were struck by whole bullets and the rest were grazed "by fragments of some sort," he said.

Two women with leg wounds and a man with a wound to his buttocks required surgery and remained hospitalized Saturday, according to the NYPD. Both were listed in stable condition.

Johnson and Ercolino, who recently had lived in Warwick, had a history of workplace squabbles before Johnson was laid off from their company a year ago. At one point, the two men had grappled physically in an elevator, according to the NYPD.

A security videotape from the scene Friday shows civilians -- including several sitting on a bench only a few feet away -- scattering as the officers opened fire. The shooting happened as the neighborhood bustled with people arriving for work.

A NYPD spokesman declined to comment on Dillon's role in apprehending Johnson, citing the ongoing investigation.

With The Associated Press

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