The mother of the gunman who killed a former co-worker outside the Empire State Building — and was then fatally shot by police — has revealed something that may be crucial about him.
In an interview with The New York Times published Tuesday, the mother of Jeffrey Johnson said her son sustained a traumatic brain injury that nearly killed him when he was a young boy. She pondered if that experience in any way made him “snap,” leading to his murderous behavior, the slaying of Steven Ercolino.
Johnson, who designed women’s T-shirts, blamed Ercolino for his layoff from Hazan Imports. Johnson, 58, contended that Ercolino, a Hazan salesman, hadn’t pushed Johnson’s clothing hard enough. So Johnson caught Ercolino as he was going into work and shot him dead on the street.
Johnson’s mother, only identified as Mrs. Johnson in The Times story, described how shocked she was when she learned about her son’s actions, and death, while watching the news on TV. Quite naturally, she went over in her mind her son’s upbringing and life to try to figure out why he did what he did.
She recalled that he had been a Boy Scout, was a lover of animals, and had served his country in the Coast Guard.
But Mrs. Johnson told The Times that when her son Jeffrey was in sixth grade, 11 years old, he sustained an almost fatal head injury when he was hit by a car. He was in a coma for five days and wasn’t expected to live, she told The Times.
“The doctors told me once that they would be very surprised if he didn’t have any aftereffects,” Mrs. Johnson told the newspaper.
“This may be some kind of excuse,” she continued. “I don’t understand what snapped in him to do what he did.”
Obviously, everyone who has had a TBI doesn’t go out and commit murder. But I believe that Mrs. Johnson is right, that her son’s brain injury was a factor in his actions. It’s a shame that his life, and the life of his innocent victim Ercolino, both ended the way that they did.