The fast-moving hunt for those behind the brazen Manhattan slaying of a 31-year-old entertainment promoter swerved in several directions Thursday, with police sources saying they are searching for a person they believe possibly drove the getaway car, and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly insisting "no suspect has been identified in this case."
Kelly made his comments during a news conference at Manhattan College to address earlier reports Thursday from sources that NYPD investigators had narrowed their search for the driver of a luxury sedan to a single suspect but remained uncertain about the killer.
The commissioner declined to comment further. The victim, Brandon Lincoln Woodard, of Los Angeles, was shot point-blank in the back of the head Monday afternoon as he walked on 58th Street near Columbus Circle. The killer shot Woodward, then got into a Lincoln MKZ and was driven off.
The rented Lincoln luxury sedan used in the escape after the slaying was found in Queens after an array of police mobile license plate reader vehicles got a hit. The car was parked and no one was inside, Kelly said Wednesday.
A police spokesman Thursday said reports -- whether true or not -- that investigators have identified the driver could put that person's life at risk. If the shooter thinks the real driver could become a potential witness against him, he might try to carry out another killing, spokesman Paul Browne said.
A Queens man identified as a "person of interest" on Wednesday is the boyfriend of a Queens woman who rented the Lincoln MKZ on Nov. 11 at an Avis outlet in Huntington Station, a law-enforcement source said. The man was questioned at length by detectives on Wednesday and later released. The man is not believed to be the killer, although his involvement has not been completely ruled out, one law enforcement source said.
NYPD detectives visited the apartment of Woodard in Los Angeles, but Kelly wouldn't comment on what had been found.
"It is a work in progress," Kelly said of the murder probe.
Woodard had a criminal record that included drug possession charges. His mother, Sandra Wellington, said detectives searched her son's condo and found no drugs, weapons or any other evidence. She said after the search, detectives promised her they would find the people responsible for her son's death.
"They said they won't stop until they get them," she said. "And I know they will."
Under New York law, the driver would be considered a suspect as an accessory to the murder, said former prosecutor and defense attorney James DiPietro of Brooklyn.
A source said detectives are pursuing a lead linking Woodard's cellphone to a Queens homicide last summer.
With Joseph Mallia