'A lot of guns,' and a lot of bullets too
“And once again, there’s an awful lot of guns out there.”
That's how Mayor Michael Bloomberg concluded his press conference today, talking to dozens of reporters less than a block north of the Empire State Building, the scene of a shooting this morning that left a suspected murderer and a victim dead and nine bystanders injured, some of them, perhaps, by police.
“Some may have been shot accidentally by police officers who responded immediately,” said Bloomberg, who was on the radio before the shooting this morning calling for stricter gun control laws.
He added that the people who may have been shot by police officers appeared not to be seriously wounded and were expected to recover "quickly."
Council Speaker Christine Quinn, in a sober pantsuit, stood to the mayor’s right. The police commissioner, Ray Kelly, in dark suit and aquamarine tie, stood to his left.
Bloomberg wore khakis, a sport coat and boat shoes, and looked like he’d been about to depart for his estate in Bermuda, or perhaps the Hamptons, when the shooting changed his plans.
Here's the version of events as presented by Bloomberg and Kelly at the press conference:
At 9:03 a.m., Jeffrey Johnson, a 53-year-old jewelry designer who’d lost his job at Hazan Imports a year ago, allegedly fired three bullets into a former colleague in front of a nearby building on West 33rd Street, before fleeing north along Fifth Avenue, a 45-caliber semiautomatic pistol tucked into a black bag under his arm.
A construction worker followed him and pointed out the alleged shooter to two NYPD counterterrorism officers stationed in front of the Empire State Building. A confrontation ensued and bullets flew, killing Johnson, and injuring seven men and two women, none of them elderly.
The mayor, Quinn and Kelly arrived at the press conference site around the same time, only to duck into CUNY's Graduate Center for what was, presumably, a debriefing.
The media were told to find their places—print reporters sat on the pavement, TV reporters stood behind them. And they waited. And occupied themselves. One got on the phone to ask advice about a recent job offer she’d gotten from a start-up. Another, presumably from CNN, kept checking in with “Atlanta.”
Writers plugged their recorders into mult-boxes, only to get snapped at by TV reporters for blocking their view. Life in the buildings around the crime scene seemed to have ground to only a partial halt. Above the Duane Reade at the northwest corner of 34th Street and Fifth Avenue, workers stood on suspended platforms repairing windows. From the third floor of the same building, a blonde peered at the scene below.
The street lights changed from red to green, but no cars moved beneath them.
And then finally, the mayor strode out, Quinn and Kelly in his wake.
The mayor has made gun control one of his signature issues, and following the death of Trayvon Martin and the Dark Knight massacre in Aurora, Colorado, he appeared on one national TV show after another denouncing the ease with which guns change hands in the United States.
But today, perhaps because of the ambiguity surrounding how many of the injured were shot by police, rather than by the original perpetrator, he only said, “We are not immune to the national problem of gun violence,” and then stuck to the facts, limited though they were.
Kelly took some questions, but didn’t have much more to offer, given the very early stage of the investigation. Quinn, who received no questions or requests to speak, said nothing.
The administration declined to identify the 41-year-old victim allegedly shot in the head by Johnson in front of 10 West 33rd Street, pending notification of the family. As of noon, Fifth Avenue remained closed from just below 42nd Street to 33rd Street, which was shut down between Madison and Sixth avenues. 34th Street was roped off between Madison and Seventh.
Police officers, meanwhile, looked for shell casings and footage from nearby video cameras, and interviewed witnesses to the crime.