The shooting occurred around 2 p.m. outside the Saint Thomas Choir School, a small boarding school for young boys on a fairly quiet street between busy avenues teeming with tourists and shoppers.
The gunman, wearing a dark coat with a dark hood and khaki pants, came up behind 31-year-old Brandon Lincoln Woodard, of Los Angeles, and fired what appeared to be a silver semi-automatic pistol, striking him once, police spokesman Paul Browne said. No motive had been revealed.
Security guard Jose Villafane, at work across the street from the school, between Broadway and Seventh Avenue, said he didn't even realize at first what he had heard.
"I'm thinking it was a tire popping," he said.
Villafane, who's from Brooklyn, said he then saw the man on the ground across the street, blood on his face, and saw people trying to get him some help.
Another man, an onlooker, banged on the door of a nearby fire station, and a woman who ran down the street appeared to get into the ambulance with the victim, Villafane said.
It's believed that the shooter and the getaway driver may have been in the neighborhood, just blocks from Central Park and Columbus Circle, for some time. They escaped in a light grey or silver Lincoln sedan.
The killing occurred on a nondescript, unassuming block of West 58th Street, with construction scaffolding, a piano store and an apartment building at the corner. The site is near the Time Warner Center, two connected skyscrapers that have appeared in numerous movies and television shows.
There was no known connection to the school, Browne said.
None of the 38 boys studying at the school witnessed the shooting because they were at a church rehearsing, school receptionist Allie Roma said.
"We didn't hear the gunshots, but we saw the flashing lights," Roma said.
Roma said to her it appeared the man had been shot in the face.
"The body was on the sidewalk," Roma said by telephone before she was interrupted by someone who told her to hang up, which she did.