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Deadly shooting near New York's Empire State Building

A fired women's clothes designer shot dead a former colleague outside the Empire State Building in New York City before he was killed by police.

Nine others were hit by bullets, some possibly fired by police, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

Those wounded suffered minor injuries and all were expected to survive.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly named the shooter as 58-year-old Jeffrey Johnson, who lived in Manhattan. His victim was Steven Ercolino, 41.

Among those wounded were four men and five women, aged 20 to 56, authorities said. They were all from New York City except one woman from Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

'Disgruntled worker'

The shootout took place in the heart of Manhattan, in front of one of the world's most widely recognised landmarks, soon after 09:00 (13:00 GMT) when the area was packed with commuters and tourists.

"This was a terrible tragedy. We are not immune to the national problem of gun violence," Mayor Bloomberg said.

Commissioner Kelly said the suspect had lost his job about a year ago at Hazan Imports, located near the Empire State Building.

He said Johnson was laid off during downsizing after six years as an employee.

The gunman and his victim had traded accusations of harassment when they worked together, Commissioner Kelly added.

He said the "disgruntled" worker fatally shot a former colleague in the head. Armed with a .45 calibre pistol, he fired at his victim three times at close range on the pavement.

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

A man who answered the phone at the victim's home said he was too distressed to talk, the Associated Press reported.

"He was a good son, that's all I can say," said the man, who did not give his name.

Commissioner Kelly said that a construction worker had followed the gunman, and alerted two police officers on duty outside the Empire State Building.

Surveillance video showed the attacker pulling his gun out of a bag and pointing it at two officers. The police then fired 16 rounds and killed Johnson, Commissioner Kelly added.

Some of the bystanders were likely hit by police gunfire, rebounding off planters in front of the skyscraper, given Johnson's gun only had eight rounds. Two bullets were left in the gun, and detectives believe he shot Ercolino five times, the New York Times reported.

Commissioner Kelly said the officers who caught up to Johnson had "responded quickly, and they responded appropriately".

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

Johnson, who was wearing a business suit, is not thought to have had a criminal record. He had bought the gun in Florida in 1991, but did not have the required permit to possess the weapon in New York City.

There was a heavy police presence earlier at the scene on 34th Street and Fifth Avenue, and the FBI also attended.

Television helicopters hovered overhead filming the scene, where a body could be seen covered in a white sheet.

Eyewitness James Bolden told Reuters news agency he saw a man lying on the pavement bleeding from the neck and barely breathing.

"Everybody was crowded around him taking pictures and video, and security guys were yelling everybody to get back, and give him space," he said. "He was barely breathing."

Fifth Avenue, a major traffic artery in the city, was closed from 42nd Street.

'Stream of blood'

Witnesses described people running away from the scene.

"People were yelling 'Get down! Get down!'" accountant Marc Engel, who was on a bus when the gunshots rang out, told the Associated Press.

The area around the Empire State Building was flooded with police after the shooting

"It took about 15 seconds, a lot of 'pop, pop, pop, pop', one shot after the other."

Afterwards, people who had been wounded were lying on the pavement and one person was "dripping enough blood to leave a stream", Mr Engel added.

Rebecca Fox, 27, said she saw people running down the street and initially thought it was a celebrity sighting.

Then she saw a dead man on the ground. "I was scared and shocked and literally shaking," she said.

One of New York's most popular tourist attractions, the Empire State Building is a 1,453-ft (442-metre) skyscraper, which attracts nearly four million visitors a year.

The shooting comes less than two weeks after a man wielding a knife was shot dead by police near another busy landmark, Times Square.

Police say Darrius Kennedy, 51, had been smoking marijuana and was killed after lunging at officers with a kitchen knife.

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