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Ray Kelly defends cops in Empire State shooting

New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly speaks

New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly speaks in Manhattan, Aug. 30, 2012. Credit: Jason DeCrow

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly again defended police actions Thursday in shooting Empire State Building killer Jeffrey Johnson on a busy Fifth Avenue, noting that the matter is being reviewed by the Manhattan district attorney's office.

"We always have an in-depth review of any shooting incident," Kelly said. "I conduct a major brief right after the shooting, with all relevant parts of the department being represented.

"The district attorney received the information and will make a determination of whether or not it goes before the grand jury," Kelly added.

A spokesman for District Attorney Cyrus Vance declined to comment as to whether the case has been presented to a grand jury. One law enforcement official said the normal practice is to submit all police shootings that take place in Manhattan to a grand jury.

Kelly answered with the single word, "yes," when asked whether he thought the two counterterrorism officers were justified in shooting the armed Johnson outside the Empire State Building a week ago when he pointed a .45-caliber handgun at them.

The officers fired multiple rounds on the busy sidewalk, killing Johnson. Nine bystanders were wounded by masonry shrapnel and bullets, some of which splintered on concrete sidewalk planters. Two construction workers had told police that, moments earlier, Johnson had shot and killed former co-worker Steven Ercolino on 33rd Street. At least two civilians were struck directly by police bullets, officials said. The injuries were not life-threatening.

Kelly also said it was unclear why Johnson, 58, of Manhattan chose last Friday to kill Ercolino.

"The only motive we can determine at this time is ongoing animus, problems with the two of them stemming back, way back, several years, when both were employed at Hazan Imports," Kelly said.

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