Designer Lost Job, Shot Up Empire State Building and Left Dead on 5th Ave.

By James Fanelli and Patrick Wall  on August 24, 2012 1:03pm  | Updated on August 24, 2012 3:57pm

MIDTOWN — He wore the same beige suit and brown dress shoes every day. And his morning routine never varied: vacuuming up cat hair in his one-bedroom apartment and then a quick trip to McDonald's to pick up breakfast.

But on Friday morning — Jeffrey Johnson, a slight-framed — subdued ex-fashion designer, broke from his quiet life, gunning down his former boss before getting into a bloody firefight that left him dead and sprawled on a Midtown sidewalk, police said.

A year ago, Johnson, 58, had lost his job as a women's accessory designer at Hazan Import Corp, a clothing apparel firm on West 33rd Street, according to officials.

He had worked there for six years before the company downsized and let him go.

Johnson had also feuded with Steven Ercolino, Hazan's office manager, whom he shot dead outside the Empire State Building on Friday, sources said.

According to sources, Johnson had a gun permit in Tennessee but he wasn't registered to own a pistol in New York. Police do not know whether Johnson legally purchased the .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol he used in the shooting. 

At Johnson's six-story Upper East Side apartment building on East 82nd Street, neighbors were shocked to hear that the man they regarded as a quiet loner had carried out the bloody rampage that left 10 people shot and bystanders diving for safety.

"He was a regular guy. You never expected something like this would happen," said Johnson's super, Guillermo Suarez, 72.

Suarez said Johnson had lived in the building for 18 months and always wore the same tan suit, sometimes with a loosened tie.

"He was just quiet, reserved, seemed a little shy," Johnson's former neighbor Ashley Halvorsen, 28, said. "I was shocked [about the shooting]. Then the more I thought about it, I always thought he was kind of odd."

Johnson's neighbor Gisela Casella described him as a handsome guy who never had visitors and lived with two cats, one of which had died recently.

"He never talked, but he loved animals," Casella said, recalling how he always petted her mixed terrier-Chihuahua but rarely said hello to her. "I felt very sorry for him. He was always alone."

Casella said she often heard Johnson vacuuming his second-floor apartment in the morning.

"He was not a happy-looking guy," she said.

Johnson's Linkedin profile says he attended Ringling School of Art & Design in Sarasota, Fla.

Aside from his work at Hazan, Johnson ran a website, Stjollytshirtart.com, which sold illustrations for t-shirts. The artwork on the site is of classic cars like '57 Chevys and Mustangs, as well as airplanes and beach scenes. One bizarre illustration is of a naked woman, a pirate ship and a fighter jet.

Neighbors said Johnson left his apartment each day at around 7:30 a.m. to get fast-food at a McDonald's on Third Avenue near 85th Street, returning with a bag and two cups of coffee.

Suarez said he saw him leave the building at the same time Friday morning.

"The same routine, except he didn't come back this morning," Suarez said.  "Then on the news, here he is. I'm still shocked."

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