(CBS News) Violent crime in busy Midtown Manhattan is a fraction of what it used to be. So it was a shock yesterday when a man was shot and killed there in the middle of the day.
It happened outside a school, just a few steps from Carnegie Hall, Central Park, and a major shopping district. The shooting happened with no warning.
Witnesses describe the killing as a cold-blooded execution. Benny Harris told CBS News, "One loud shot, we were all standing right here, and scared to death, we saw the guy on the floor."
At around 2 p.m. on Tuesday, a busy intersection in Midtown Manhattan came to a standstill when the gunman, wearing a dark coat and hooded sweatshirt, came up behind 31-year-old Brandon Lincoln Woodard who police say was visiting New York from Los Angeles.
Investigators believe the gunman fired what appeared to be a silver semi-automatic pistol. The bullet struck Woodard in the head.
One witness said, "What I've seen, I've seen blood coming out of the face. He was laid out."
Delivery truck driver David Mirambeau was just steps away from the victim when the shooting occurred. He said, "He wasn't dead right away, he was still shaking, that's when I called the cops."
After killing Woodard, the gunman calmly walked toward an waiting getaway vehicle, got in, and quickly blended into the bustling New York City traffic. The area is teeming with tourists and is close to popular sites like Times Square and Central Park.
In the chaos that followed, none of the witnesses were able to catch a glimpse of the killer.
A witness who identified himself as Bernard said, "No one seen the person who did it. Whoever did it was like -- he was a ghost."
Woodard was pronounced dead at a local hospital, just minutes after the incident.
Police are now examining surveillance video and believe the shooting to be the work of a professional.
CBS News senior correspondent John Miller, a former NYPD deputy commissioner, said on "CTM," the shooting "tells you someone was working on this for a while."
"You have a individual, Brandon Lincoln Woodard, walking down the street. He's a 31-year-old law student from Los Angeles. He's a graduate of Loyola, now he's texting on one device ... got another phone. As the killer walks up behind him, he glances back and sees the guy coming up behind him. There's no recognition there. The guy is wearing a black hooded -- hoodie. So he goes back to his texting. At that point, the killer closes the distance quickly, puts the one shot in his head, and then not running, walking very deliberately, goes another 20 yards, gets into a silver Lincoln MKZ. And this is the part that tells you these guys were pretty cool about it, they got stopped at the light. They stayed in traffic.They calmly made the right onto 7th avenue and disappeared into Midtown traffic. ... This was probably not their first outing."
The surveillance cameras on the block show the actual murder, Miller said, but they don't show the gunman's face. "Now they're working to find other cameras and enhance that, but the network that you're talking about is when they make that right turn, if somebody even got a partial plate, they can alert that network of NYPD security cameras and a network of cameras that have license plate recognition. They can say, 'Well, we can see where that car was before the murder. We can see where the car went after the murder.' That's part of what they're trying to put together now.
"If they have a partial, they certainly have the make, year and model. They already have a head start on trying to figure that out. So it's a possibility. But I think what you have here is this is a very interesting individual in terms of the victim. You've got a kid from Los Angeles who's in law school, but you've also got a 31-year-old man who has arrests for robbery, for drugs, for assault, who had a run-in with Usher's bodyguards during a concert in Las Vegas that resulted in an arrest, including him being charged. ... Once they have motive, that will quickly probably lead detectives to the who but knowing and proving is two different things. It's certainly a brazen crime that attracted a lot of attention."
To watch Terrell Brown's full report and John Miller's complete analysis, watch the video in the player above.