Empire State Shooter Worked at Jewish-Owned Company

Syrian Owner of Hazan Imports Sat Stunned for Hours

Shooting Probe: Police investigate the aftermath of deadly shooting outside Empire State Building in Manhattan.
getty images
Shooting Probe: Police investigate the aftermath of deadly shooting outside Empire State Building in Manhattan.

By Larry Cohler-Esses and Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published August 24, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The gunman who opened fire outside the Empire State Building, killing one person and injuring several others, was a disgruntled former worker at a nearby company owned by a Syrian Jew, sources told the Forward.

Owner Ralph Hazan was upstairs in the offices of Hazan Imports on W. 33rd St. when the suspected shooter, identified as Jeffrey Johnson, 53, opened fire near the landmark on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, police and sources said.

Hazan, an observant Orthodox Jew in his 60s, sat in the office for hours, stunned by the senseless tragedy, until relatives came to pick him up, a longtime family friend told the Forward.

“He was in shock,” the friend said. “He sat there for a good part of the day.”

Johnson, who was laid off from the company about a year ago, was killed in the gunfire, which also wounded nearly a dozen people.

The friend described Hazan, who lives in West Long Branch, N.J., as a gentle man, with many friends.

“He is the nicest guy,” he said. “He would never hurt a fly.”

A source in the community said the company, which makes women’s clothing and accessories, was once run by Hazan and his brother Isaac. Isaac Hazan had a stroke about three years ago and later passed away, leaving Ralph Hazan in charge of the company, the source said.

The Wall Street Journal, quoting relatives, identified the victim as Steve Ercolino, 41, a manager at Hazan.

Johnson, who designed accessories for the company, walked up to Ercolino and shot him in the head just after 9 a.m.

Ralph Hazan’s friend stressed that the owner had no quarrel with Johnson and did not know why the gunman targeted Ercolino.

Johnson, who had no criminal record, tried to hide the .45-caliber gun in a bag and walk away, but witnesses chased after him and notified police, who confronted him on the street.

It was unclear if he was able to get off a shot before he was hit by police fire. Police bullets apparently also hit bystanders, officials said.

“Some of the victims may have been shot accidentally by police officers,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

Six people were rushed to Bellevue Hospital and another three to New York Hospital. Their injuries were not considered life-threatening.

Hazan Imports mostly made and distributed women’s handbags, according to another clothing manufacturer.

“Take the best of the past and infuse it with the best of today,” Ralph Hazan told the site. “We hope to enjoy a glorious ‘revival’ with both old and new audiences.”

The gunplay was not related at all to the Empire State Building itself, which sits in a busy commercial and tourist neighborhood. In 1997, a Palestinian gunman with a string of grievances opened fire on the 86th floor observation deck, killing one tourist and wounding six others.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.