Johnson reportedly shot a 41-year-old former colleague to death before randomly shooting others on the Fifth Avenue side of the building at about 9 a.m. At least nine people were wounded in the shooting but those injuries are not believed to be life threatening, police said.
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According to reports, Johnson was recently fired from his job at Hazan Imports, where he worked as a designer of women's accessories. He was shot and killed by police officers.
Queens resident Rebecca Fox, 27, told the Associated Press she was near the landmark skyscraper when the shooting occurred. She said she saw people running down the street and initially thought it was a celebrity sighting, but then saw a woman shot in the foot and a man dead on the ground.
"I was scared and shocked and literally shaking," she said. She said police seemed to appear in seconds.
During a press conference after the shooting, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said that it was still too early to know all the details of the tragedy. Bloomberg did mention, however, that some of the wounded may have been shot by police in the mayhem.
The mayor also tried to offer some words of comfort to the shaken city.
"New York City is the safest big city in the country," Bloomberg said. "But we are not immune to the national problem of gun violence."
According to witnesses, chaos ensued after the shooting, as police officers swarmed the tourist-filled streets.
Editor's note: Authorities initially said Jeffrey Johnson was 53 years old. He was 58. This entry has been amended to reflect that information.
For photos taken during the aftermath of the shooting, click through this slideshow: