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Man accused of NYC gun rampage was apparel designer, cat lover

NEW YORK -- The man who police say shot and killed a former colleague Friday morning near the landmark Empire State Building, triggering panic in Midtown Manhattan, was described by neighbors as quiet and a bit of a loner.

Jeffrey Johnson, 58, of Manhattan, was dismissed from his job last year as an accessories designer at a women’s apparel firm, Hazan Imports, when the company underwent downsizing, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said at a press conference.

Kelly said Johnson opened fire at 9:03 a.m. EST on West 33rd Street in front the company where he formerly worked, shooting his former co-worker, age 41, three times, Kelly said. Johnson was later shot and killed by police, and nine others were injured.

Two killed, several hurt in shooting near Empire State Building

Johnson did not have a criminal record and authorities don’t know much about him, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

Johnson served in the Coast Guard from 1973 to 1977 and rose to petty officer second class, a Coast Guard spokesman said. He was honorably discharged.

One of Johnson's neighbors on the city's Upper East Side, Gisella Casella, 72, told The Wall Street Journal that he was quiet and loved his two cats. She saw him "dressed up" every morning and thought he was going to work.

“He was the nicest guy. I think he snapped or something,” she said.

The building superintendent, Guillermo Suarez, 72, told The New York Times that Johnson would go out to a local McDonald's every morning and come back with a bag from the fast food chain. He often would stay home for the rest of the day.

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