Witnesses Recount Unsettling Scene at Empire State Shooting

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

At least 2 people are dead after a shooting in front of the Empire State building on Friday August 24, 2012. (Photo Credit: RobFrehse /CNN)

By Michael Pearson, CNN

(CNN) — The tourists were lined up outside the door. The observation tower was open. Just another early morning at the Empire State Building, one of New York’s most-visited attractions.

Even the frenzy of people running down the street seemed routine enough given the building’s popularity.

“I thought actually there was a celebrity sighting,” said Rebecca Fox, who saw a surging crowd on her way for coffee.

The crowd wasn’t running to see a star. They were running from a shooting.

According to authorities, a man opened fire outside the building’s Fifth Avenue entrance, triggering a gun battle with police. At least 11 people were shot and at least two of them were killed, including the gunman.

At mid-morning, the man’s body lay on the pavement, just feet from the entrance to the building’s observatory. A black bag lay next to him. Detectives swarmed over the scene.

Nearby, Fox saw a woman who had been injured, the sidewalk stained with blood.

“It’s just a crazy scene,” she said.

CNN iReporter Ashwin Purushan stumbled across the scene on this way to work.

“There was a sense of panic and mass confusion,” he said.

Police closed down the streets near the Empire State Building, which attracts 3.6 million visitors a year. Onlookers crowded up to police barricades, chattering about the shooting, CNN iReporter Kelly Wilson said.

Another iReporter, Vladimir Dusio, who lives across the street from the building, said the normally busy block in front of his building looked very different in the wake of the shooting.

“I don’t see any pedestrians around our building at all, I just see cops,” he said.

While authorities say the shooting was not related to terrorism, the fear of such violence wasn’t far from the minds of some people who live and work nearby, witnesses said

For some, the shootings dredged up memories of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack that toppled the twin towers of the World Trade Center and left the Empire State Building as New York’s tallest building.

“For us it one of the worst nightmares, to be subjected to something like this, and because the Empire State Building is such an iconic building, and there is so much traffic there you always wonder if someone is going to do something there,” Dusio said. “It is very unsettling.”

— CNN’s Rose Arce contributed to this report.

*Click here for additional coverage on the Empire State Building shooting