Source: Cops release 'person of interest' in Columbus Circle killing
Police have found the getaway car used in the brazen Manhattan slaying of a 31-year-old entertainment promoter, officials said, but the people who rented the luxury sedan on Long Island are not believed to have pulled the trigger.
A Queens man identified as a "person of interest" is the boyfriend of a Queens woman who rented the Lincoln MKZ on Nov. 11, a law-enforcement source said Wednesday. He has been released and is not believed to be the killer, but his involvement not been completely ruled out, the source said.
He was questioned at length by detectives late Wednesday, the source said.
The victim, Brandon Lincoln Woodard, was shot point-blank in the back of the head Monday afternoon as he walked on 58th Street near Columbus Circle, authorities said.
The Lincoln believed to have been used by the killers was found parked on a Queens street after a mobile police license plate scanner got a hit, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said Wednesday.
Police had obtained the license plate number from surveillance video taken when Woodard was killed. Investigators also had video of the car leaving Manhattan through the Queens Midtown Tunnel about 25 minutes after the shooting.
The person of interest may be questioned again, said the source, who added that detectives are also pursuing a lead that, based on phone records, link Woodard's cellphone to someone involved in a Queens homicide over the summer.
The people who rented the Lincoln from an Avis outlet in Huntington Station are not considered suspects, another law enforcement source said, but detectives are investigating whether they loaned the car to the gunman -- or anyone else who may have played a role in the crime.
Investigators on two coasts have teamed up to search for suspects and a motive in the execution-style slaying.
NYPD detectives were in Los Angeles on Wednesday, working with their counterparts there to delve into the victim's background and to interview relatives, friends and business associates, the source said.
At the same time, forensic tests on the getaway car are being run, the source said.
On Tuesday, Kelly said investigators have recovered three cellphones, one of which Woodard had when he was killed. The devices, he said, are being examined for messages and calls that could shed light on the slaying.
Moments before he was shot, Woodard, a Los Angeles law student and hip-hop promoter, was seen in a surveillance video looking at his smartphone and at a building on 58th Street, presumably checking the address to which he may have been lured, police said.
Reached by telephone at her home in Los Angeles, Sandra Wellington, Woodard's mother, said detectives working the case informed her Wednesday that someone is being questioned.
"I'm not doing very well . . . It's my only child who I lost," the real estate broker said.
Fred MacFarlane, a family spokesman, said LAPD detectives searched Woodard's West Los Angeles home Wednesday with the family's permission.
The video released Tuesday by the NYPD shows the gunman shortly before 2 p.m. pulling the hood of his jacket over his head before calmly walking up to the victim, who appears to either be typing or reading a text message.
Police spokesman Paul Browne said ballistics tests on the fatal bullet's casing shows the pistol was the same 9-mm semiautomatic used Nov. 22, 2009, to fire 12 shots at a home on Mangin Avenue in Queens.
Woodard had a criminal record dating to 2004. With Ellen Yan