The mystery surrounding an execution style shooting in broad daylight near Carnegie Hall deepens as investigators learn more about the gunman, who is still on the loose, and more about the victim, an out-of-towner whose background raises far more questions than it answers.
Late Tuesday afternoon, police confirmed that they had license plate information for the getaway car in the single-shot homicide of Brandon Woodard, 31, in front of a Catholic school near Carnegie Hall on Monday. Investigators also said that the getaway car had left Manhattan through the Queens Midtown Tunnel after the 1:45 P.M. hit, but that the driver of the car paid in cash, rather than use EZPass, which is traceable.
It was a clear sign that the gunman and his accomplice were experts in murder. One more new development which further indicated the gunman’s homicide expertise came from the police commissioner himself. Ray Kelly said at a press conference at police headquarters that the shell casings his investigators found at the shooting scene on 58th Street just west of 7th Avenue match those found after a shooting in Southeast Queens in 2009.
The NYPD also released surveillance images of the fatal shooting, and those images showed the gunman, his victim, and the getaway car. One image, a still frame shot by a video camera on the facade of the school in front of which the shooting took place, showed both men seconds before the gunman rubbed out an apparently unsuspecting Woodard.
In the image, Woodard is seen holding his smartphone, possibly searching for an address, according to detectives. A step behind him is the gunman, a man with a heavy build, wearing light colored pants and a hoodie, the hood of which is over his head. Pulled out from the hoodie’s pocket is a silver semiautomatic that is clearly visible in the gunman’s right hand seconds before he lifts it to Woodard’s head and pulls the trigger.
“He died before we actually ever said anything,” a pedicab driver who refused to give his name told PIX11 News. According to other witnesses, the pedicab driver was the first person to approach a badly bleeding Woodard before he passed away. “It was fast, it was quick, just like that,” he said.
Like at least a half dozen other people who responded to Woodard following the gunshot blast, the pedicab driver’s focus on the dying man completely distracted him from the gunman. He calmly got into a silver or gray Lincoln MKZ sedan, which, according to investigators who have seen extensive surveillance imagery, stopped at the light at the corner of 7th Avenue, then headed south toward Times Square, not speeding or attracting attention in any way.
The mysterious circumstances of the shooting are matched with the mystery of the victim, whose background NYPD detectives examine closely both here in New York and in Los Angeles, where Brandon Woodard was from. It appears that nobody there who knew him was aware that Woodard was in New York. He had traveled here, according to police, on a one way ticket on Sunday, with no clear plans to return to L.A., even though he had apparently checked out of his hotel near 58th and 9th Avenue.
Woodard had a relatively long arrest record, according to published reports, including, among the 20 arrests, cocaine possession and assault on a security guard for the R&B star Usher. Woodard was known to have been involved in the hip hop industry in L.A., according to police sources.
He was also the father of a four year-old girl, on whom he doted, according to family members and friends, some of whom spoke with PIX11 News by phone from L.A.
However, in possibly the most bizarre twist of the whole incident, All My Children soap opera actress Tonya Pinkins said in an interview after the murder that she had been involved in a legal wrangle with Woodard’s mother, Sandra McBeth Reynolds, and that Reynolds engineered a variety of scams involving real estate loans and mortgages. “She would sell properties to Brandon and then he would default on them,” Pinkins claimed to the website Showbiz411. “The number of people they burned, and people who lost their homes, is huge. Their enemies list is huge,” she said.
Woodard’s family would not comment to PIX11 about Pinkins’ claims, but they did issue a statement after learning of Brandon Woodard’s death, which said, in part, “There are no words to express our shock in the face of this horrendous tragedy. Brandon… was presently enrolled in West Los Angeles Law School. He was a kind, gentle and generous young man, beloved by friends, family and his community. He enjoyed spending time with his four year-old daughter, Kirsten, and was a devoted father and son. We eagerly await justice for Brandon.”