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Cops’ gunfire wounded bystanders in Empire State shootout

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"He was in the prime of his life," he said. "He would do anything for anybody at any time. ... He was so wonderful with my children. At Christmastime, he was the one who always had the best presents for the kids."

Paul Ercolino said his brother, known to nieces and nephews as Uncle Ducky because of his nearly blond hair, had followed his father into the garment industry after growing up in Nanuet, just north of New York City, then later worked in women’s handbags and accessories. He said his brother had never mentioned to the family that he had any problems with a co-worker.

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Hazan Import Corp. executives didn’t return phone calls seeking comment Friday.

Johnson, after waiting for Steve Ercolino to come to work, walked up to him, pulled out a .45-caliber pistol and fired at his head, police Commissioner Ray Kelly said. After Ercolino fell to the ground, Johnson stood over him and shot four more times, a witness told investigators.

"Jeffrey just came from behind two cars, pulled out his gun, put it up to Steve’s head and shot him," said Carol Timan, whose daughter, Irene Timan, was walking to Hazan Imports at the time with Ercolino.

In security camera footage released by the police, Johnson can be seen walking calmly down the sidewalk after the shooting, distancing himself slightly from the other pedestrians, who appear to have no awareness that anything is wrong.

But when two police officers approach in a hurry, Johnson turns and pulls a handgun from a bag. Then, the scene explodes into action. People seated on a bench behind the gunman and pedestrians standing close to the two officers run for their lives.

Only a young child seems not to react, strolling out of view of the camera as adults all around leap away in terror.

Startled New Yorkers later looked up from their morning routines in the crowded business district to see people sprawled in the streets bleeding and a tarp covering a body in front of the tourist landmark.

"I was on the bus, and people were yelling ‘Get down! Get down!" accountant Marc Engel said. "I was thinking, ‘You people are crazy. No one is shooting in the middle of midtown Manhattan at 9 o’clock in the morning.’"

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It was over in seconds, he said — "a lot of pop, pop, pop, pop, one shot after the other."

Afterward, he saw sidewalks littered with the wounded, including one man "dripping enough blood to leave a stream."

The officers who fired were part a detail regularly assigned to patrol landmarks such as the 1,454-foot-tall skyscraper since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, officials said.

Kelly, the police commissioner, said the officers who confronted Johnson had "a gun right in their face" and "responded quickly, and they responded appropriately."

"These officers, having looked at the tape myself, had absolutely no choice," he said.

A witness had told police that Johnson fired at the officers, but authorities say ballistics evidence doesn’t support that. Johnson’s gun held seven rounds, they said. He fired five times at Ercolino, one round was still in the gun and one was ejected when officers secured it, authorities said.

A loaded magazine was found in Johnson’s briefcase.

Johnson legally bought the gun in Sarasota, Fla., in 1991, but he didn’t have a permit to possess it in New York City, authorities said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said New York still is the safest big city in the country, on pace to have a record low number of murders this year.

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