Police surround a Fifth Avenue pavement as they investigate a multiple shooting outside the Empire State Building (AP)
New York authorities have confirmed that all nine bystanders caught in the crossfire of a shooting outside the Empire State Building were wounded by two police officers who had never fired their weapons on duty.
Officer Craig Matthews fired seven times and Officer Robert Sinishtaj fired nine times at Jeffrey Johnson on a busy Friday morning after Johnson shot a former co-worker to death and then pointed his pistol at them.
Police had said nine bystanders were thought to have been wounded by stray or ricocheting police bullets, and police commissioner Raymond Kelly confirmed that on Saturday. He said that based on ballistic tests and other evidence "it appears that all nine of the victims were struck either by fragments or by bullets fired by police".
Investigators are trying to piece together what caused Johnson to ambush former colleague Steve Ercolino, a vice president at the company where Johnson was laid off last year.
Police said Johnson hid behind a car and killed Mr Ercolino with five gunshots as he arrived for work. Johnson then walked away before being shot by two police officers who confronted him moments later.
Security camera footage showed the officers had only an instant to react when Johnson turned as they approached and pointed his gun at them, his arm cocked as if to fire. Their encounter was over in eight seconds. The officers, who had been standing nearly close enough to shake hands with Johnson, fired almost immediately.
Nine bystanders were wounded in the 16-shot volley, all by stray or ricocheting police bullets. None of their injuries was life-threatening, police said.
Johnson and Mr Ercolino traded harassment accusations when they worked together, police said, and when Johnson was laid off a year ago he blamed Mr Ercolino, saying he had not aggressively marketed Johnson's new T-shirt line.
A neighbour who often saw Johnson, 58, said he was always alone. "I always felt bad," said Gisela Casella, who lived a few floors above him. "I said, 'Doesn't he have a girlfriend?' I never saw him with anybody." Mr Ercolino, 41, was described by his relatives as the opposite of a loner. His eldest brother, Paul Ercolino, said he was a gregarious salesman who often travelled, had a loving girlfriend and was the life of any family gathering. "He was in the prime of his life," he said.
The officers who fired were part of a detail regularly assigned to patrol landmarks since the September 11 attacks, officials said. Police commissioner Kelly said the officers who confronted Johnson had "a gun right in their face" and "responded quickly, and they responded appropriately". He said: "These officers, having looked at the tape myself, had absolutely no choice."