NEW YORK (AP) — Police revealed Wednesday that they found a getaway car used in an execution-style daylight slaying of a Los Angeles man on a busy Manhattan street — a possible break in a case that has defied easy answers.
No motive or suspects have been identified in the shooting of Brandon Lincoln Woodard. But New York Police Department officers located the missing Lincoln sedan — parked and unoccupied — during a sweep of a Queens neighborhood with high-tech license plate readers, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said at a news conference about an unrelated drug takedown.
Police also have interviewed a woman who spent time with Woodard the evening before a gunman put a bullet in the back of his head in midtown, a block from Central Park. The woman and Woodard watched an NFL game together at his hotel before going out to dinner, Kelly said.
The NYPD 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.
Kelly declined to comment on reports that the getaway car had been rented by someone other than the hit team and possibly loaned to them for the hit.
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 possibly lured into an ambush a few blocks away.
The killer had arrived at least 30 minutes before the gunfire erupted. The man, who appears to be bald and have a beard, could be seen on surveillance video exiting the passenger side of the parked Lincoln sedan and pacing as he waited, police said.
After Woodard got there, he checked his phone and walked back and forth as if looking for an address, police said. A security photo — released to seek the public's help in identifying the gunman — shows him 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 for unclear reasons on Sunday. Two were found on his body and one in luggage he left at his hotel.
Sandra and Rodney Wellington, Woodard's mother and stepfather, released a statement Tuesday urging anyone with information on the killing to contact police.
"There are no words to express our shock and sadness in the face of our family's horrendous tragedy. We eagerly await justice for Brandon," the statement said.
They described him as a "gentle and generous young man," a devoted father and son who loved sports.
Woodard graduated from Campbell Hall High School and earned a bachelor's degree from Loyola Marymount University, the statement said.
Authorities in Los Angeles and Las Vegas have said Woodard had a criminal record in both cities.
Woodard 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, school spokeswoman Judy DeVine said. However, she declined to provide details of his records, what he was studying or why he left, citing privacy laws.
Associated Press writer Robert Jablon in Los Angeles contributed to this report.