Today, family and friends mourned the death of Steve Ercolino, the 41-year-old women's apparel executive who was killed by a disgruntled former employee near the Empire State Building Friday morning. Ercolino, a vice president of sales at Hazan Import Company, was fatally shot by Jeffrey Johnson outside the company offices at 10 W. 33rd Street just after 9 a.m. yesterday. “My son was a loving son, a great son, and a great uncle, and we are grieving very badly,” Ercolino's father, Frank, told the Post.

Friends said Ercolino, who graduated with a business/fashion degree from the State University of New York at Oneonta in 1992, lived with his girlfriend in Hoboken; co-worker Irene Timan, who was walking into the office with him when he was fatally shot, says the couple had just gotten back from a vacation to Mexico. “He was a great guy, very loving, caring very friendly, a good worker,” she told the Post. Ercolino “was funny, he was very fit. He went to the gym," she added.

“He had a preppy, ladies-man, Tom Cruise-kind of look,” said Eddie Valentin, a security guard at a nearby building. "[He] seemed like a nice, friendly guy. He always waved and said ‘Hi.’ Always had a smile.” Ercolino had a sister and two brothers, as well as multiple nieces and nephews, including his brother Paul's two children, Vincent (to whom he was godfather) and 12-year-old niece Sofia. "He would come home with a new handbag that he knew was going to be the style, and she'd have it first," Paul told Newsday. "He really loved life. I envied the way he lived. He soaked up every minute of it. He would just do it. He didn't have anything that would hold him back. He was a very spur-of-the-moment type of person."

It seems Ercolino and Johnson were involved in an "ongoing dispute"—Timan told the Times that Ercolino was uncomfortable with Johnson around the office. “As time goes by, you could walk down the hallway and see an elbow being thrown or a shoulder being shoved, or a comment,” she told them. Despite being smaller than him, Johnson "would taunt Steve, push him.” Johnson was laid off during a downsizing last year, but appeared to take the firing in stride.

However, when Johnson was visiting the office on April 27 last year, he and Ercolino got into a fight on an elevator. “Steve was leaving the elevator, Jeff was walking in, and Jeff elbowed him,” Timan recalled. “Steve had finally had enough, so he grabbed Jeff by the throat, and said, ‘If you ever do anything like this again, I’m going to kill you.’ ” They both filed police reports against one another.

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