An armed veteran walked into the lobby of a federal building in SoHo on Friday, shot an armed private security guard in the head, killing him, and then shot himself. Now police are trying to figure out the motive behind the attack.
The 53-year-old guard, Idrissa Camara, died shortly after the 5 p.m. shooting on Varick Street, his employer and officials said. He had agreed to stay for an extra shift after his normal work day ended at 4 p.m.
The gunman, identified as 68-year-old Kevin Downing of Fort Lee, New Jersey, also died, officials said.
Authorities say Downing shot the guard as soon as he neared the metal detector; the shooting was at close range. Downing then went through the metal detector and headed toward the elevators, where he encountered another employee, police said. Downing shot himself at that point.
Downing had two guns on him, and authorities are attempting to determine if he fired both, sources say.
Authorities said they are trying to learn more about the motive of Downing, who was a former federal employee at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He also had collected Veterans Affairs Benefits, according to police Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller.
"We don't know what his target was," O'Neill said. It appears the gunman acted alone, and O'Neill said there was no indication the shooting was terrorism.
Miller said Downing had left his government job "some time ago.'' A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Labor, which controls the Bureau of Labor Statistics, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. The FBI was assisting in the investigation because Camara was working as a contractor for a federal agency, police said.
It does not appear that Downing had any link to the security agency that employed Camara, FJC Security Services.
FJC Security Services said Camara had worked for the agency for two years, ever since it was contracted to work the federal building. He'd been stationed at the building previously with another agency.
He was "an extraordinary senior guard who was well trained, cared deeply about his job and knew that building better than anyone else," said a statement from FJC. "It's clear from the facts that he never had a chance to defend himself in this instance."
That the guard agreed to stay for extra duty after his shift ended at 4 p.m. "speaks volumes about the person he was," the statement said.
A family member outside Lenox Health Greenwich Village Hospital, where Camara was taken, collapsed onto the ground in grief.
Another cousin told reporters: "He was a great man. Anybody who knew him, they would tell you -- at work, home, they would tell you."
Chopper 4 showed an extensive emergency presence near the scene as law enforcement converged on the federal building from the ground and the air. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson went to the federal building Friday night.
"I intend to express my condolences to his family if I have the opportunity to do so," he said. "I wanted to be here because this is a federal building, and check in on our employees here and be with those employees in the face of this tragedy."
The 12-story building houses several federal offices, including an immigration court, environmental offices, post office and branch offices for veterans' affairs, the Department of Justice and Department of Labor.
People who live and work in the area posted messages on social media saying they were told not to leave their buildings. One store owner said he was actually told to leave the shop and run.
"Police said, 'shut down the store and run outside because there is an active shooter,'" said Padel Mahess, who owns a shop across from the federal building.
Law enforcement also converged on Downing's home in New Jersey Friday evening, and armored tactical teams were seen entering neighbors' homes to safely bring them out as they awaited a court order to begin searching Downing's house, which was in foreclosure, according to relatives and neighors.
A relative who asked not to be named told NBC 4 New York over the phone that he lived alone and had no children. Downing had a fiancee with whom he lived for years before she died of cancer several years ago.
The relative said Downing served in the military and was stationed in Europe in the 1960s. He was discharged with distinction.
He was most recently working as a realtor but his home was in foreclosure. And sometime in the last two years, he was struck on a crosswalk.
"He's had tough few years," said the relative.
Downing was fired by the Department of Labor years ago and had filed a whistleblower lawsuit in 2004, according to the relative, who believes that Downing targeted the Varick Street building because it has a Department of Labor office there and that it was probably the closest branch to his Fort Lee home.
One Fort Lee neighbor said he knew Downing in passing and only said hello, and another said that Downing's home had been on the market for over a year, and his property was not well kept, with overgrown vegetation taking over the yard.
"He was a neighborly sort of guy, hello, goodbye," said John Damato. "Just a quiet man. Nothing would convice me he would do something as heinous as this."
The president of the union that represented the guard said in a statement the union was "shocked and horrified at this terrible news" and sent condolences to the guard's family.
"Security officers around the city and country serve on the front line each and every day to keep us safe and secure. We are heartbroken that one of our own has fallen," said Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU. "We hope some of our questions in the face of this terrible tragedy will be answered. For now, we are keeping his family and loved ones in our thoughts and prayers."
FJC said it intended to "do everything we can to stand with his wife and family during this very difficult time."