MANHATTAN, N.Y. (KTLA) –Police in New York late Wednesday released a man they were questioning in the brazen murder of a Los Angeles man on a busy Midtown street.
The shooting happened just before 2 p.m. Monday in front of Saint Thomas Choir School near the intersection of W. 58th St. and Seventh Ave.
The suspect walked up behind 31-year old Brandon Lincoln Woodard, of Playa Vista, and shot him once in the back of the head with a 9-millimeter pistol.
The shooter, according to witnesses, kept walking calmly less than 100 feet to the corner, where a getaway car was waiting with a driver inside.
Earlier Wednesday, license plate readers and a tip gave police the clues they needed to track the getaway car to Queens.
The rental Lincoln MKZ had been picked up at an Avis car dealership located at LaGuardia Airport, police sources told KTLA’s sister station WPIX.
That led investigators to two individuals who rented the car, a man and a woman, WPIX reports.
The car is now in the NYPD’s possession and was being swabbed for DNA and other clues that could lead police to the shooter.
Authorities say Woodard may have been lured into an ambush, and that the gunman had stalked him for 40 minutes before killing him.
The shooting happened in an area filled with private surveillance cameras and those operated by police.
Police on Tuesday released surveillance video that showed Woodard walking down 58th Street near Columbus Circle.
A man standing near a Lincoln sedan pulled a hood over his head as Woodard passed. A short time later, the two passed each other a second time.
The man turned, pulled out a gun and shot Woodard at close range before getting back into the Lincoln, which pulled away.
“On the film [Woodard] appears to be looking at his phone,” NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said. “Obviously we are interested in what information was on the phone at that time.”
The victim had two phones on him when he was killed, and one more was packed in his luggage left at his swank midtown hotel, 6 Columbus.
So far, police say they don’t have a clear motive for the murder. Police on both coasts are continuing to investigate. Detectives from New York arrived in Los Angeles on Wednesday, sources said.
Woodard played basketball at the exclusive Campbell Hall private high school in Studio City and graduated from Loyola Marymount University in 2003.
He had a 4-year-old daughter named Kirsten and was pursuing a law degree at the University of West Los Angeles School of Law, his stepfather, Rod Wellington, said.
But court records revealed a more complex picture, including at least 20 arrests, according to Commissioner Kelly.
The arrests include charges of cocaine possession, grand theft and battery against a former spouse.
It was not clear what brought Woodard to New York after he purchased a one-way ticket from California, Kelly said, or where he was going when he left his hotel.
Woodard checked into the hotel Sunday and checked out about 1:15 p.m. the next day. He had told his mother he expected to be home Monday.