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Empire State Building Shooting Victim Remembered by Heartbroken Mourners

By DNAinfo Staff on August 28, 2012 6:47am

By Joseph Parziale and Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo.com New York

WHITE PLAINS — Heartbroken mourners poured into a funeral home here Monday to remember Steven Ercolino, who was killed last week in near the Empire State Building by a disgruntled ex-coworker.

Friends and relatives consoled each other as they streamed in and out of the Ballard-Durand funeral home — just across the Hudson River from Ercolino's hometown of Nanuet — for the private service.  

A picture of Ercolino, hanging over his steel casket, showed the vice president of sales at Hazan Imports hiking. Friends remembered the 41-year-old as an avid athlete, a sharp dresser and a dedicated worker before being gunned down on a West 33rd Street sidewalk near the iconic skyscraper last Friday morning.

Friends and family mourned Steven Ercolino at a wake in White Plains Monday, Aug. 27, 2012.
Friends and family mourned Steven Ercolino at a wake in White Plains Monday, Aug. 27, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Joseph Parziale

"His whole family is heartbroken," said Anthony Jones, 83, Ercolino's cousin. "His father and mother are beside themselves. They break down every time a friend comes in."

Jeffrey Johnson, 58, shot and killed his former coworker, whom he blamed for being laid off last year, police said.

Johnson opened fire on Ercolino shortly after 9 a.m. and was later confronted by cops near the entrance of the famed building. He pointed the gun at the police officers, who fired a fusillades of bullets before Johnson could get off a shot.

At the funeral home, Ercolino's family requested that media not be allowed into the wake and his immediately family members declined to speak with the press.

Still, loved ones described the emotion of the memorial as overwhelming.

"The room is just filled with grief," said a person who claimed to be a cousin of Ercolino. "Why are the good ones taken?"

Phillip Andiloro, 52, a family friend, said that relatives at the wake were recollecting the good moments from Ercolino's life.

"What else can you do?" Andiloro said. "You try to comfort the family, but you can't at times like this. It's impossible, especially the way he was gunned down. It's unbelievable."

Ercolino's fiancee, Ivette Rivera, was so distraught she reportedly considered not attending. But she was there, Andiloro said.

"She's devastated," he said. "It's sad."

Ronnie Atanasio, 56, who worked at a handbag company next door to Ercolino's handbag company, said he knew him through the industry for years.

"He was very well-liked in my business," Atanasio said. "Every day I saw this gentleman. [He was a] great salesman, just a good kid and a really hard worker."

He also described Ercolino as a dapper dresser and said he was outfitted in "an impeccable grey suit" with a multi-colored tie and nice black dress boots at the wake.

Atanasio recounted how he came across Ercolino's body moments after the shooting.

"I saw him lying in the sidewalk with blood pouring from the curb," he said. "To blatantly stalk someone and put a gun through his head, to me that's just unacceptable. It was cold-blooded murder."

He added, "[Ercolino's] mother is distraught. She's not handling it too well. When someone dies the way he did, the shock is just so overwhelming."

Another wake was scheduled for Tuesday, and a memorial mass will be held Wednesday at Our Lady of Sorrows Church, followed by a cremation, according to the funeral home’s obituary.