NEW YORK (AP) — Investigators on two coasts teamed up Wednesday to search for a suspect and a motive in the execution-style slaying of a Los Angeles man in broad daylight in midtown Manhattan.
Police officials in New York said they were in touch with authorities in Los Angeles to try to get a clearer picture of why anyone would want Brandon Lincoln Woodard dead — and take extreme measures to make it happen.
Woodard was shot in the back of the head Monday afternoon after he checked out of a hotel on nearby Columbus Circle, a normally safe neighborhood teeming with car and pedestrian traffic.
New York Police Department investigators were examining three phones carried by Woodard when he flew to New York City on Sunday. Two were found on his body and one in luggage he left at his hotel.
Ballistics evidence pointed to another possible lead: The 9mm semiautomatic used to kill Woodard was the same weapon used in 2009 to shoot up the outside of a home in the borough of Queens where nobody was hurt.
The brazen slaying of the 31-year-old college graduate “certainly appears to have been planned,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters.
Sandra and Rodney Wellington, Woodard’s mother and stepfather, released a statement Tuesday urging anyone with information on the killing to contact police.
“There are no words to express our shock and sadness in the face of our family’s horrendous tragedy. We eagerly await justice for Brandon,” the statement said.
They described him as a “gentle and generous young man,” a devoted father and son who loved sports.
Based on security videotape, New York Police Department detectives suspect Woodard was lured into the ambush, Kelly said.
The killer had arrived at least 30 minutes before the gunfire erupted. The man, who appears to be bald and have a beard, could be seen exiting the passenger side of a parked Lincoln sedan and pacing as he waited, police said.
After Woodard got there, he checked his phone and walked back and forth as if looking for an address, police said. When the shooter approached, Woodard appeared to look back at him for a split second. He looked away again after “showing no sign of recognition,” Kelly said.
A security photo — released to seek the public’s help in identifying the gunman — shows him reaching into his pocket for a pistol moments before he fired a single deadly round.
Afterward, the shooter left Woodard in a pool of blood on the sidewalk, slipped into the same Lincoln sedan and was driven away.
Investigators were still trying to determine what Woodard, who checked into his hotel on Sunday after flying in from California on a one-way ticket, was doing in the city. Kelly said he has been described as a promoter but had no further details.
Woodard graduated from Campbell Hall High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from Loyola Marymount University, the statement said.
Authorities in Los Angeles and Las Vegas confirmed that Woodard had a history of run-ins with the law in both places.
Woodard had been due back in court Jan. 22 following his arrest by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies in West Hollywood in April on a felony cocaine possession charge. He had previously pleaded not guilty.
Associated Press writers Robert Jablon in Los Angeles and Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed to this report.
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