Steven Ercolino's family to share memories at funeral

Mourners gather to remember Steven Ercolino at his Mourners gather to remember Steven Ercolino at his wake at the Ballard Durand funeral home in White Plains. (Aug. 27, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday Nancy Siesel

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The victim of the Empire State Building shooting will be eulogized Wednesday at a service that will touch on the senseless violence that claimed his life in a flash of cold-blooded fury.

Funeral services for Steven Ercolino are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in White Plains.

Three members of Ercolino's immediate family will give readings and will be allowed to share their memories of the Brooklyn-born Ercolino, who was reared in Nanuet and graduated from Clarkstown South High School in 1988.

The Rev. Philip Quealy, who is with Our Lady of Sorrows, will deliver a eulogy for family and friends struggling to understand the forces that led a co-worker holding a yearlong grudge to gun down Ercolino, 41, as he walked to work on a sun-drenched Friday morning.

"It's always difficult when you don't know the person," Quealy told Newsday on Tuesday. "I will touch on the sins of violence, and the evil of violence in this world."

A funeral Mass will follow at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale. Ercolino will be cremated, according to his obituary.

Meanwhile, a Manhattan grand jury continues to probe the actions of the two NYPD officers who fatally shot Jeffrey Johnson, 58, of Manhattan, as he coolly walked away from the scene after firing five times at Ercolino.

The officers could face assault charges for injuries suffered by nine bystanders hit by some of the bullets cops used to take down Johnson. The officers shot a total of 16 rounds.

Police shooting experts predicted the grand jury will clear the officers.

"It's really hard to indict an on-duty police person," said Eugene O'Donnell, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and an expert on police use-of-force issues. "And the video is extremely helpful. It shows he (Johnson) had a chance to surrender."

A surveillance camera video captured Johnson reaching for a .45-caliber gun after he was confronted by cops, who were alerted to Johnson by nearby construction workers.

"The first question will be whether they were justified," O'Donnell said. "And that's going to be clearly supported by the video. The video will be evidence that they really didn't have a choice."

The grand jury will also decide whether the number of shots the officers used to take down Johnson were reasonable considering the threat they and others faced.

It's unlikely that the grand jurors would hold the officers responsible for bullets that passed through Johnson and struck bystanders, said O'Donnell, an ex-Brooklyn cop and prosecutor.

More difficult to gauge will be the shots that missed and hit the bystanders, whether directly or as ricochets.

O'Donnell said that based on his review of the video, it appears that the cops stopped shooting when they realized Johnson was no longer a threat.

Ercolino's family was to gather Tuesday night for a second night of mourning at the Ballard-Durand Funeral Home in White Plains.

On Monday night, more than 100 mourners streamed through the white-pillared home on South Maple Avenue.

Friends say Ercolino was dressed in a gray suit and multicolored tie, sporting a favorite pair of black boots. In the casket was a picture of the athletic Ercolino, a Little Leaguer and high school football player, on a hiking trip.

Ercolino's mother, Rosalie, and his longtime girlfriend, Ivette Rivera, were particularly distraught, sobbing as friends and family arrived to pay their respects.

"It's just a shame," said family friend Philip Andiloro, 52. "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."

Ercolino was a vice president for sales at Hazan Imports on West 33rd Street in Manhattan. Johnson was a designer at Hazan who had been laid off a year ago.

"Steven Mario Ercolino was taken far too soon from this world on Friday, August 24, 2012," reads the first line in an obituary written by his family. "He lit up the room with his smile, and his personality was larger than life."

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