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Behind Empire State shooting: A layoff, a gun, and a targeted ex-boss (+video)

The deadly shooting near the landmark Empire State Building early Friday may be workplace-related, with a laid-off worker apparently targeting his former boss. Such violence is recurring, but it did not escalate after millions lost their jobs during the Great Recession.

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The street shooting Friday morning near New York's landmark Empire State Building, in which an ex-employee killed his former boss, is a tragic reminder that workplace-related violence remains a consistent, if sporadic, problem – one that more American companies have sought to address by adopting more humane firing policies. 

The shooter, who was killed by police officers as he tried to leave the scene, has been identified as Jeffrey Johnson, 58. Authorities say he lost his job with Hazan Imports, which imports budget women's purses, about a year ago when the company downsized. 

Although Mr. Johnson apparently targeted one individual, chaos ensued in the Empire State Building vicinity, a major New York tourist district, as police confronted him and, when he pulled his gun, fired in his direction, killing him. Nine bystanders were wounded, either caught in the line of fire or hit by richoceting bullets.

By 11:30 a.m., New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly were briefing the media and reassuring the public that the shooting was not a terrorism incident and that New York is a safe place – including the Empire State building’s observation deck. According to Mr. Bloomberg, all the people injured will survive.

Although incidents of workplace violence crop up periodically, there is no evidence that they have escalated during the recent economic downturn and continuing doldrums, when millions of American workers lost their jobs. There were 432 homicides in the workplace in 2010, down from 462 in 2009, and the number has been pretty flat over a seven-year period, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

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