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Murder In Midtown Manhattan Leaves Big Questions


Of the 40 or so murders committed on average every day in the United States, most involve guns and around half involve victims and assailants who are acquainted or related. Nowadays, when we hear news reports about shootings in crowded spaces, they tend to be like the shootings at a Portland, Oregon mall yesterday - a man in a hockey mask firing seemingly aimlessly into a crowd and then taking his own life - murder as an act of madness.

But on Monday, midtown Manhattan witnessed a very different kind of slaying, the kind that happens all the time in crime shows and pot boilers, but never on West 58th Street in broad daylight in real life. Wendy Ruderman, police bureau chief for the New York Times, has been following the story of the killing of Brandon Lincoln Woodard. Wendy Ruderman, what happened?

WENDY RUDERMAN: Yes, it was a very planned execution-style shooting, which is really something that doesn't happen very often in midtown Manhattan.

SIEGEL: Woodard was walking down the street. He passes a man who comes up behind him and shoots him in the head.

RUDERMAN: Right. Police are investigating whether or not Mr. Woodard was somehow lured to cross paths with the gunman who was waiting for him at a location for at least 30 minutes. Mr. Woodard had walked by the gunman. He glanced over his shoulder quickly, but didn't appear to recognize the gunman and the gunman fired a single shot into the back of Mr. Woodard's head.

SIEGEL: And then, the gunman got into a waiting car and drove away.

RUDERMAN: And drove away. Commissioner Kelly has said it was either incredibly brazen and well-executed or very foolhardy, considering the amount of people who were around, the amount of cameras in Manhattan and to use a car in an area with lots of traffic.

SIEGEL: Now, tell us a bit about the victim. Mr. Woodard was visiting from Los Angeles, I gather from a rather well-to-do family, but with a pretty long record of arrests, if never for major felonies.

RUDERMAN: Yes. He was a club and party promoter from the West Coast. He was also a law school student who had about a year and a half to go before getting his law degree and then he also had this quite lengthy criminal history where he had been arrested at least 20 times, according to police, for various things, including drug possession related to cocaine, an assault or a robbery and additionally, I think, a hit and run.

SIEGEL: Let's talk about some of the things police do know about this. One is they've identified the gun, I gather, by the bullet that was - the casing that was found.

RUDERMAN: Yes. They used the marking on the shell that was found on the pavement to a gun used in a shooting in 2009 in Queens. So they know that the same gun was used in both shootings.

SIEGEL: I gather the car was seen or a car with the same license plate was seen entering the Queens Midtown Tunnel.

RUDERMAN: Yes. They tracked the car to a neighborhood in Queens where it was parked and the car is currently in police custody. And I believe that they are either getting a search warrant or have already gotten a search warrant to look through the car.

SIEGEL: Now, just to put this shooting death of Brandon Lincoln Woodard in some perspective, in New York City, the murder rate is way down. I mean, this is not the murder capital of the U.S. by any means.

RUDERMAN: Right, exactly. In fact, in New York City, it's supposed to be a record low as far as the homicide rate by the close of 2012, which is fast upon us.

SIEGEL: Well, Wendy Ruderman, keep us posted if there's some breakthrough in the case.

RUDERMAN: Thank you so much.

SIEGEL: That's Wendy Ruderman, who is the police bureau chief for the New York Times, talking with us about the case of the killing on Monday of Brandon Lincoln Woodard, shooting death in midtown Manhattan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.