Woman Wounded in Empire State Building Shooting Sues City, NYPD Cops

By Ben Fractenberg and Nikhita Venugopal  on January 23, 2013 8:11am  | Updated on January 23, 2013 11:50am

 Police stand over the body of suspected shooter Jeffrey Johnson, 58, who allegedly shot 10 people, killing one, outside the Empire State Building.
Police stand over the body of suspected shooter Jeffrey Johnson, 58, who allegedly shot 10 people, killing one, outside the Empire State Building.
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MANHATTAN — A 32-year-old woman struck by a stray bullet fired by NYPD police officers during the Empire State Building shooting last summer is suing the city, demanding that cops need better training to avoid hitting innocent bystanders in future shootings.

Chenin Duclos, 32, of Chapel Hill, N.C., was walking on West 34th Street Aug. 24 when Police Officers Craig Mathews and Robert Sinishtaj opened fire on gunman Jeffrey Johnson after he drew the gun he had just used to kill his former boss, according to court papers.

The officers fired 16 shots, hitting Duclos as she was "frantically running to get away from the bedlam and hysteria that was unfolding on the street around her," the court filings said.

"The gunshot hit Ms. Duclos with such force that she thrown to the ground," the papers added.

“She remained in the crosswalk, shot, motionless, and fearing for her life,” the papers claimed.

Her femur was “completely destroyed,” according to court papers, and she was hospitalized from Aug. 24 to Sep. 8 and has since been undergoing "intensive physical therapy."

Eight other people were hit by stray bullets fired by police.

Johnson, who had been fired from his job, stalked his former boss, Steven Ercolino, and blasted him with five rounds.

Police responded and gunned down Johnson on Fifth Avenue.

But Mathews and Sinishtaj failed to follow proper police tactic and procedure, according to the papers, such as following the shooter to a location that would limit danger and injury to bystanders, which, at the Empire State Building shooting, included two small children.

The city law department, however, said the cops acted quickly and heroically, according to news reports.

"These officer had to make split-second decisions in dealing with a life-threatening situation presented by an armed gunman who had just killed someone," said city Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo, according to the New York Post. "The state's highest court has recognized that police officers' split-second decisions to use deadly force must be protected from this kind of second-guessing. To allow otherwise would have a chilling effect on the ability of our police to enforce the law and would put the lives of police officers and the public at risk."

When asked about the lawsuit Wednesday, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly defended the officers.

"It's certainly unfortunate that this woman and other people were struck. But I don't see the officers having any other reasonable recourse than to do what they did," he said.

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