Police tentatively ID getaway driver in Midtown murder

December 13, 2012 8:21:33 PM PST
Detectives believe they have a tentative identity on the driver in the Midtown shooting that killed a law student from California.

Authorities say they learned his name as part of the investigation and are looking for him in southeastern Queens.

The man reportedly has a criminal record. They believe the gunman, who is currently not identified, has a similar background as the man they have identified.

Police questioned one man on Wednesday, as well as the woman who rented the getaway car, but both were later released.

Detectives are operating on the theory that Brandon Woodard's murder was somehow motivated by drugs and money.

One of the three cell phones Woodard used has now been linked to an unsolved triple murder in Springfield Gardens last July.

The victims in that incident were killed by men firing AK47-style assault rifles.

Police believe the man who killed Woodard near Columbus Circle was likely a professional, or at least someone who has killed before, because of how cool and precise he was.

A security video - not made public - shows the gunman walking up behind Woodard and, without a word, pressing the barrel of a pistol to the back of his head, officials said. It appears that before the presumed contract killer even pulls the trigger, he turned to slip into the Lincoln sedan with the driver already starting to pull away.

Other cameras captured the car fleeing through the Midtown Tunnel to Queens, where it was found - unoccupied and parked - by police using high-tech license plate readers.

The woman police interviewed spent time with Woodard the evening before the murder. She and Woodard watched an NFL game together at his hotel before going out to dinner, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Wednesday.

The New York Police Department has sent detectives to Los Angeles to obtain a search warrant for the victim's home, the commissioner said. The manhunt for the gunman and his getaway driver "is going forward aggressively," he said.

The 31-year-old Woodard - described variously as a promoter, petty criminal, would-be lawyer and family man - was killed Monday afternoon after he checked out of a hotel on nearby Columbus Circle and was possibly lured into an ambush a few blocks away.

Based on security video, police know the killer had arrived at least 30 minutes before the gunfire erupted. The man could be seen exiting - and carefully pulling the hood of his jacket over his head - the passenger side of the parked Lincoln sedan and pacing as he waited, police said.

After getting there, Woodard checked his phone and walked back and forth as if looking for an address, police said. Other video - released to seek the public's help in identifying the gunman - shows the gunman reaching into his pocket for a pistol moments before he fired a single deadly round.

The shooter left Woodard in a pool of blood on the sidewalk, slipped into the same Lincoln sedan and was driven away.

Kelly said Wednesday that investigators were still examining three phones carried by Woodard when he flew to New York City on Sunday for reasons that are unclear. Two were found on his body and one in luggage he left at his hotel.

Authorities in Los Angeles and Las Vegas have said Woodard had a criminal record in both cities.

He 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.

Woodard attended the Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa for two semesters in the fall of 2010 and the spring of 2011.


(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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