NYPD sources tell the Associated Press that after reviewing surveillance footage of a brazen broad daylight shooting in midtown Monday, the killer appears to be a professional. And judging by the victim's behavior in the moments before his death, investigators believe the assailant may have used text messages to lure his target.
A longer version of the surveillance video that police released shows the victim, 31-year-old Brandon Woodard, walking past his killer on 58th Street. He appears to be looking for an address. But he then doubles back, heading toward the killer and the getaway car. The Times describes what happens next:
He glances at his smartphone and looks up and around, as if searching for a number on a building. The killer approaches from behind. Mr. Woodard, sensing someone at his heels, glances back. The killer turns his face away, fixing his gaze elsewhere. Mr. Woodard does not appear to recognize the gunman and continues on.
The killer swoops in directly behind Mr. Woodard and shoots him in the back of the head at close range. As the bullet enters Mr. Woodard’s skull, the gunman turns his head away, a movement that investigators suspect was done to prevent blood splatter from hitting his face. He calmly walks away and climbs into the Lincoln, which is already easing into traffic.
Yesterday investigators found the getaway car in Queens with the help of the NYPD's famed "Ring of Steel" surveillance system. The system, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly explained, uses "mobile license-plate readers that move around throughout the city and what you can do is put in a plate number and scour an area, and that’s how it was found.” The silver-gray Lincoln MKX was rented from an Avis outlet on Long Island. Investigators are now swabbing it for DNA and examining it for other evidence.
Yesterday police handcuffed an unidentified man in Rosedale, Queens and took him in for questioning—according to DNAinfo, the woman who rented the car had told police she loaned it to him. But he was subsequently cleared and released. “The cops apologized to him," the man's mother tells the Post. "My son is home. He didn’t do anything. He is innocent." One police official tells the Times, "At this point, I wouldn’t even classify it as a person of interest, but that could change dramatically."
Investigators are still trying to determine what Woodard, an LA resident who has at least 20 prior arrests, mostly for drugs, was doing in NYC. He checked out of his hotel by Columbus Circle before the shooting, but left his luggage there, telling hotel workers he'd be back to retrieve them. Three cell phones were in his possession, and investigators are looking at what role drugs may have played in his murder. And in a strange twist, Tony award winning actress Tonya Pinkins, who has a long-running feud with Woodard's mother, has weighed in on the case, telling Showbiz 411 their "enemies list is huge."