Break In Midtown Mystery Slay: Cops Grill ‘Person Of Interest’

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NEW YORK (TIP): The NYPD pulled a person of interest in for questioning Wednesday, December 12 as the manhunt intensified for the ice-cold killer who gunned down a young father on a busy Manhattan street Monday. Cops took a 40-year-old man into custody Wednesday afternoon, but didn’t arrest him, a police source said. Investigators don’t believe he’s the shooter, but have not ruled out his involvement in what appeared to be a hit. The Queens man is the boyfriend of the woman who rented the getaway car, a Lincoln MKZ, according to sources. Officers from the 113th Precinct in Queens found the getaway car Tuesday night with the help of hightech license plate readers.

The woman who rented the vehicle let someone else borrow it before the grisly slaying occurred, police said. Police got the license plate number as the sedan went through the Midtown Tunnel shortly after Brandon Woodard, 31, was killed about 2 p.m. Just moments before, a single gunman pumped a bullet into Woodard’s head and jumped into the passenger seat of the car. Police are pursuing the case “aggressively,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Wednesday. They’re paying particular attention to the three cell phones Woodard brought with him from Los Angeles. He left one in his luggage but was carrying two with him.

The victim was looking down at one of those phones just moments before he died, like he was reading something. Video surveillance showed the getaway car pulled into its parking spot 20 minutes before Woodard was killed. Footage also shows the assassin casually leaning against the car door. He watches Woodard exit the Thompson Hotel, heading east. Woodward doesn’t react as he passes the waiting predator. The killer is then seen leaning into the passenger door of the sedan, like he’s speaking to someone inside. A few minutes later Woodard doubles back, this time headed west.

Police suspect the street may initially have been too crowded, so the killer first let Woodard walk by unharmed. Then someone may have contacted him with a message that brought him back when the foot traffic cleared, a police source said. “Obviously, we are very much interested in what information was on the phone at that time,” Kelly told reporters Wednesday. Police may have also uncovered a link between Monday’s executionstyle murder and a triple homicide that occurred in Queens this summer, a police source said. The victims in that killing, three men, were parked in front of a friend’s house in Springfield Gardens, Queens, on July 7 after attending a soiree in Brooklyn thrown by a local party planner.

The men had gotten into a fight with others at the party, who followed the victims to Springfield. The shooters sprayed them with a hail of AK-47 bullets as the men sat in their parked car. Cops said at the time that 63 shots were fired from the assault rifle. NYPD detectives have flown to Los Angeles to get a search warrant for the victim’s home and dig deeper into Woodard’s background. Police don’t have a clear motive for the killing but are investigating Woodard’s ties to the entertainment business and possible drug world connections. Woodard’s parents, unaware Wednesday afternoon that the NYPD had brought someone in for questioning, were overcome with emotion when they learned the news.

The victim’s mother, Sandra Wellington, put her hand over her face and reached out to her husband for support. “We’re just hopeful that whoever did this will be brought to justice,” stepdad Rodney Wellington told the Daily News. “She’s very fragile right now,” he said. “Thank you. Thank you,” he said, grateful for the news. Police also interviewed a young woman Wednesday who was with Woodard for what turned out to be his last supper, on Sunday night. Kelly said Woodard landed at Kennedy Airport around 5 p.m. Sunday.

He checked into the Thompson Hotel around 6:30 p.m. He watched a football game with the female companion, and then the two went out for dinner at a nearby restaurant, Kelly said. Woodard left his hotel Monday shortly before 1:30 p.m., and told the concierge he would return for his luggage. He never did. Police searched his room and his bags but found nothing to tell them why Woodard had come to New York. His family is equally mystified. Woodard, father to a 4-year-old girl, had an extensive criminal history, mostly stemming from drugrelated charges. A law student at the University of West Los Angeles, he had 20 prior arrests for drugs and robbery, among other things. He was charged with cocaine possession in California in June.

Woodard was killed with a weapon that detectives determined was used in a random shooting in St. Albans, Queens, in 2009. His parents Wednesday were dealing with the sad details of bringing Woodard’s body home for burial. “Sandra Wellington is still in shock,” said family spokesman Fred MacFarlane. “At this juncture, the family doesn’t know any rationale for what happened, why it happened.” MacFarlane added that the family’s primary goal now is to shelter Woodard’s little girl from the tragic truth. “I don’t think that they have discussed this yet with the 4-year-old daughter. They’re trying to protect her,” he said.

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