Brutality of Empire State shooting hits victim's family hard
The parents of the friendly salesman shot to death outside the Empire State Building were awash in grief Monday evening, unable to stop the tears as they greeted more than a hundred mourners at a funeral home in White Plains.
The crowd of mourners and media covering the scene created such a stir outside the Ballard-Durand Funeral Home on South Maple Avenue motorists slowed their cars and gawked at the spectacle on the normally quite suburban street.
Steven Ercolino, 41, was shot to death by a former co-worker early Friday morning, in what appeared to be an act of revenge over perceived slights at Hazan Imports, the women's apparel company where the two men worked together. The shooter, 58-year-old Jeffrey Johnson, was himself shot to death by police immediately after the murder of Ercolino.
Anthony Jones, 83, a friend of the family, emerged from the funeral home to describe intense emotion within.
"He was a fine gentleman," Jones said of Ercolino. "His whole family is heartbroken. It shouldn't have happened. His father and mother are both beside themselves. They break down every time a new friend comes in."
Philip Andiloro, 52, another family friend, said the brutality of the killing had had a profound impact.
"It's just a shame," Andiloro said of the family. "They're very upset. They're speaking of Steven, of the good times. You try to comfort them, but you can't at times like these, especially the way he was gunned down like that."
Johnson approached Ercolino on the sidewalk and fired multiple shots into Ercolino's head with a 45 caliber pistol, then calmly walked away. He was followed by a passerby who pointed the killer out to police on duty in the area moments later.
When Johnson drew his gun a second time and pointed it at two approaching police officers, he died in a volley of gunshots that wounded nine other individuals. Three were hospitalized, but none of the wounds were life-threatening.
Ronnie Atanasio, 56, described the scene inside the funeral home, an open casket containing a photo of Ercolino hiking. Atanasio works at a handbag company near Hazan Imports.
"He was a good kid, a hard worker, very well liked in my industry. I am still in shock," Atanasio said. "The mother is not taking it all too well. The shock is overwhelming."
Atanasio expressed concern about Irene Timan, a co-worker who was standing beside Ercolino when he was shot. Timan was inside.
"She's taking it very bad," Atanasio said. "She's concerned about the memory. She doesn't know how long it will be in her mind. This poor girl will never forget."
Ercolino had been living with his girlfriend in Hoboken. Johnson lived on 82nd Street in Manhattan.
The enmity between them spun out of control after they had disagreements over the handling of products at Hazan. It grew worse when Johnson was laid off about a year ago.
The wake for Ercolino will continue tomorrow evening. The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in White Plains.
Johnson is to be buried in Georgia.