A laid-off construction worker shot and killed a foreman inside a high-rise building under construction on Manhattan's West Side Thursday morning before turning the gun on himself, according to police.
The 44-year-old worker -- identified by former co-workers as Samuel Perry -- went into the 645 W. 59th St. building, found his former supervisor on the 37th floor, and shot him in the head just after 7 a.m., police said at a news briefing.
The NYPD went into its active shooter protocol and deployed its Emergency Services Unit, Critical Response Command and Strategic Response units to the scene. The building was evacuated as police in tactical gear streamed in, Chopper 4 over the scene showed. Police were stationed all around the building with guns drawn, and construction workers who had vacated the site gathered on a corner up the block.
NYPD Deputy Chief Executive Officer Philip Rivera said, "During the course of the search, we realized we were dealing with a workplace violence situation. The shooter had a dispute with the foreman and shot him several times."
Nearly two hours later, at about 8:45 a.m., the Perry was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on the fifth floor, police said. A 9 mm semi-automatic weapon was found on the scene.
Police said Perry had been let go two days ago by the 37-year-old foreman, Christopher Sayers of Long Island. They're investigating how Perry was able to get back into the building.
Carpenter Robert Pagan said he was working in the building when he heard gunfire and ran to help.
"When I got upstairs I see my foreman on the floor, which is a good friend of mine as well," said Pagan.
Co-workers described Perry as "a little crazy," but would never have expected him to kill anyone. One worker said that when his wife died in 2015 -- police said she set herself on fire -- they all collected money for him.
Pagan said he even hugged Perry on the way out of the building Thursday, moments before the man took his own life.
"He's a good worker. An excellent worker," he said. "For him to do this? He could have gotten a job anywhere. He's a good guy. It's shocking."
Perry's neighbor, Mike, said he was dumbfounded as to why he'd shoot his boss over being laid off. He said like Perry, he's a contractor, and that being laid off is part of the job.
He added that Perry had asked him to watch his dog a few days ago, saying that he'd have to shoot the dog in the head and bury it if he didn't take it.
Perry has been arrested three times in the past, according to police: twice for assault, and once for burglary. His last arrest was in 2005.
Workers at the site, meanwhile, remembered Sayers as a quiet, but good, manager.
"He comes in the morning right there, real early. He drinks his coffee, smokes a cigarette," said Greaves. "He calls me 'Old G' because I'm an old man, then he goes about his business. He never gave nobody a hard time. Never."
Pagan, meanwhile, called his former boss a "great guy."
A message has been left with the construction company that employed the men.
A spokeswoman for the New York City and Vicinity District Council of Carpenters union said in a statement to News 4, "Our hearts are heavy upon hearing the news of the tragic event that occurred this morning involving two of our union brothers." She added that the union is cooperating with authorities.
"Our sincere condolences to the family and friends of NYCDCC member Christopher Sayers who lost his life to reckless workplace violence at 645 W. 59th St," the spokeswoman said.