Empire State Building Shootings: Is Workplace Violence On The Rise? [UPDATED]

Empire State Building shooting

Updated 1:00 pm, August 24, 2012
Law enforcement officials in New York City say two are dead and at least eight people have been shot outside the Empire State Building in violence that stemmed from a workplace dispute. The gunman is said to has been killed by police.

The perpetrator was identified as Jeffrey Johnson of Manhattan, a 53-year-old fashion accessories designer, who had been fired a year ago. Johnson shot a 41-year-old former co-worker three times with a handgun on the sidewalk outside the building, killing him, Reuters reported authorities as saying.Police said that Johnson worked at Hazan Imports, across the street from the Empire State Building. When police approached Johnson after the shooting, he opened fire at the officers, and the police returned several shots, killing Johnson. Pedestrians were injured in the crossfire, according to news reports.

Although violent crime has seen recent declines in the U.S., some experts see workplace violence as a growing problem. Larry Barton, a leading expert in workplace violence, says such cases are on the rise. Barton, the president of the Bryn Mawr, Pa.-based American College, which offers master's programs in nonprofit risk and insurance management, teaches at the FBI Academy on subjects such as identifying potentially violent individuals in the private sector. He also runs a private consultancy, counseling a roster of clients that includes 40 Fortune 500 companies, and says that, for his clients, threats of violence in the workplace are up 28 percent this year alone.

The most recent official statistics are two years old and show the rate of workplace violence to be steady for the previous two decades. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that 7.8 percent of working U.S. adults were threatened, bullied or harassed on the job in 2010. The average of two murders in the American workplace a day from worker-on-worker violence has remained flat for roughly two decades, according to data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Still, in the last 15 years, deaths resulting from workplace violence have ranked among the top four causes of occupational fatalities in American offices, according to Security magazine.

Barton sees an uptick in threats reported by his clients in the past year and blames the economic crisis and the toll it's taking on workers.

"Many of us thought the [economic downturn] was going to be a short-term hiccup, and so that gave us temporary comfort," he says. "But it has become an ulcer, and with a lot more anxiety about cutbacks -- people wondering, 'Am I next?' -- you would think people would lie low and do their work. But that's not the case, it seems people become more provocative."

The Associated Press and AOL Jobs reporter Dan Fastenberg contributed to this report.

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