NBC 4 New York
Police have released surveillance video of the suspect, believed to be a professional hit man, wanted in the execution-style slaying of a man near Columbus Circle Monday as his family mourns his loss. Brynn Gingras has more.
Police have released surveillance video of the suspect wanted in the execution-style slaying of a man near Columbus Circle Monday afternoon, and authorities say they hope a bullet recovered at the scene that matches one found at a shooting three years ago can help provide new leads in the case.
Police were still searching for the gunman who walked up behind Brandon Woodard as he walked west on 58th Street between Broadway and Seventh Avenue and shot him in the back of the head outside a Catholic school just before 2 p.m.
Woodard, who arrived in New York on a one-way plane ticket Sunday evening, had checked out of the Thompson Hotel moments before the shooting, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said at a news conference Tuesday.
The surveillance video shows the suspect getting out of a late model Lincoln sedan about 10 minutes before the shooting. He waits while Woodard passes him, then falls in step behind. As the suspect approaches, the victim, still walking, looks back briefly at the suspect, who by then is directly behind him, and turns forward again. Woodard does not appear to recognize the shooter.
The suspect then pulls a gun from his pocket and fires one shot into Woodard's head.
The video shows Woodard falling to the ground as the suspect calmly walks to the getaway car, which was driven by another man and parked on the street. The driver waited for traffic to clear before speeding away.
The getaway car was captured on camera going through the Queens-Midtown Tunnel at about 2:15 p.m. Monday, Kelly said. The driver paid a cash toll. Police have a license plate number on the vehicle but are not releasing it.
"It was very brazen," said Kelly. "There's a lot of people in that general area, obviously, a lot of cameras in New York City. You can characterize it as being very brazen or very foolhardy. We'll see."
Woodard, 31, was pronounced dead at the hospital. Shell casings for the silver semi-automatic weapon were found at the scene. A law enforcement official says the bullet recovered at the scene matches bullets recovered at a 2009 Queens shooting, when 12 rounds were fired into a Mangin Avenue home in St. Albans, damaging windows and doors. No one was hurt, but police recovered ballistics evidence and are looking into the case for possible new leads.
Authorities have said they believe Woodard's shooting was planned in advance, and police are investigating possible motives.
Detectives say it appears as if Woodard may have been on the street to meet someone. On the video, he's seen texting and looking around as though he’s looking for an address.
Police are pulling text messages and the victim’s phone records, according to a law enforcement official. Authorities are also checking cell towers for any possible cellular phone numbers of interest that were used during the time of the shooting.
Kelly said Woodard had prior arrests, including for robbery, drugs and a hit-and-run, but spent very little time in jail. Detectives in Los Angeles are also involved in the investigation, Kelly said.
Woodard also made news in 2004 when he scuffled with a bodyguard at an Usher concert. He was charged with battery in the incident but told Extra that Usher's bodyguard "bashed my head into the ground."
The slain man had a young daughter, according to authorities. He was enrolled in law school and worked as a promoter in Los Angeles.
His family in California told reporters their "hearts are hurting."
"We're trying to deal with the grief of the loss of a son, the loss of a father, the loss of a brother," Woodard's stepfather Rodney Wellington said Tuesday. "It's just a devastating event right now."