Details Emerge In Shooting By Empire State Building

Aug 24, 2012
Originally published on August 27, 2012 6:15 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

Today's shooting in New York City draws special attention because of the location: at the base of the Empire State Building, perhaps the most famous building in New York, one of the most famous buildings in the world. The gunman opened fire there. Several people were shot and wounded. We're getting conflicting accounts of how many, although news photographs from the scene do show a number of people down on the ground.

The Associated Press is reporting today that the gunman had recently been fired from a job, and may have shot a former colleague to death. We're going to try to sort out what we know and what the scene is like with NPR's Joel Rose. He's on the line.

Joel, what do you know so far?

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Well, Steve, I should stress that what I'm going to say is still fairly preliminary. We're on the scene, waiting for a briefing from the New York police which should answer at least some of the questions we have about this incident today. But, so what we're generally hearing is that 10 people have been shot, two of them killed - that was according to a fire department official - and that eight of the injured people have been taken to area hospitals. No word yet on the extent of their injuries.

INSKEEP: OK. So you just said the latest figures we have - and it's early. These are subject to change again: 10 people shot, two of them killed, the remainder taken to the hospital. And all of this happened in one of the most distinctive corners in New York.

ROSE: Well, certainly one of the most trafficked, and - yeah. I mean, as you say, the Empire State Building is an absolutely iconic building. It was, when it was built, the tallest building in New York for 40 years. It was later surpassed by the World Trade Center, which was destroyed in 2001, and has been surpassed again by the new World Trade Center building. But it remains absolutely this iconic skyscraper in the heart of Manhattan, and it's a really busy intersection at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 34th Street.

You know, thousands of people commute through this area every day. It's just a few blocks from Grand Central - Grand Central Terminal, and a few blocks from Penn Station, you know, just really one of the busiest places in the busiest city in the country.

INSKEEP: OK. And this is where the shooting took place, toward the tail end of rush hour, around 9 o'clock, or a little bit after 9 o'clock this morning Eastern Time. And Joel Rose, you told us earlier this morning that police are saying there's no link to terrorism, and our colleague Dina Temple-Raston - who covers federal law enforcement agencies - is hearing the same thing from them.

But let's try to make sure we understand what that language means and why authorities would say no link to terrorism. What information we have - at least from the Associated Press - is that there may have been a work dispute here, rather than some broader, strategic aim by the gunman. Is that what they mean?

ROSE: Well, you know, we really don't have a clear picture of the motives yet, here. I mean, early on, New York Police officials said that it might have been an armed robbery, you know, and now we're hearing these other reports that perhaps there's a disgruntled employee who opened fire on a kind of former coworker. You know, there are a lot of different scenarios, and maybe we'll get some answers - some better answers from the police in this press conference in a few moments. But what we've heard from the federal side, from the FBI, is that they do not suspect any links to terrorism at this point.

And, you know, as we say, it's very early in this matter. It's just been a few hours since the shooting. But, you know, I think the FBI put the word out that they don't see any links to terrorism and that they're on the scene, but merely out of an abundance of caution.

INSKEEP: Joel, having been out there on the street, having talked to people and watched things develop, how do New Yorkers take an event like this? Does it bring everything to a halt, or do people go right on?

(LAUGHTER)

ROSE: Well, both. I think that - you know, New Yorkers are no strangers to difficult commutes. You know, I mean, any hiccup in the subway system can cause inconvenience for tens of thousands of people. So - you know, but that said, you know, turning off a huge stretch of Fifth Avenue and the other blocks around the Empire State Building is going to have a giant impact on the day for a lot of people who work, who commute through this area, who work in - either in the Empire State Building or many, many office buildings around it. So, yeah, it's going to be a major disruption for anyone who has business in this part of Midtown today.

INSKEEP: OK. Joel, thanks very much.

ROSE: My pleasure, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Joel Rose. He is on the scene of a shooting today in Midtown Manhattan at the Empire State Building. And Joel is quoting New York City Fire Department officials who say that they believe 10 people were shot today. Two of them were killed. It is believed the gunman was killed. Eight people have been taken to the hospital, and we'll bring you more as learn it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.