NEW YORK — Three people died Monday morning in a shooting incident at 1440 Broadway, in the heart of Manhattan’s fashion district.

All three were employees of Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, a non-fashion tenant of the building.

In a news conference in front of the building, police commissioner Raymond Kelly said that 911 operators around 8:24 a.m. received a barrage of phone calls reporting that shots had been fired on the 11th floor of the building, which also houses some employees of Liz Claiborne Inc. and Federated Department Stores Inc.

When police arrived, he said, "there were three bodies in the room and all appeared to have expired."

"Emergency services conducted a floor-by-floor search of the building, purely as a precautionary measure," he said.

The dead were John Harris, 53, Vincent LaBianca, 34, and Isabella Muñoz, 36, according to a police spokesman. Three guns and numerous shell casings were found in the 15 by 15 foot office.

A source said the guns were believed to belong to Harris, a vice president at the firm, who is believed to have shot his two co-workers and then himself.

When police SWAT teams and canine units arrived at the 25-story building, they initially sealed it. People outside the building who said they worked there reported that some workers were evacuated from the building, though police and tenants said that others were allowed to stay inside.

No other tenants were allowed in the building until around noon.

Richard Restrepo, an electrical contractor who was working on the ninth floor of the building at the time of the incident, said he did not hear the gunshots.

"I heard sirens and looked out on the street. There were all these cop cars," he said. "At first, we though it was a bomb scare."

He said he went down to the lobby of the building, where he waited for about a half an hour before leaving.

Andrew Boyce, a computer consultant working for Blue Cross Blue Shield, said he had heard the shots and fled to the lobby."We just had the anniversary of 9/11, so obviously this is very upsetting," he said.

The insurance firm had moved into the Broadway building, on the east side of the street between West 40th and 41st Streets, after last year’s terrorist attacks.

A Liz Claiborne spokeswoman said the company had about 200 employees, from its human resources, accessories and Liz Claiborne Foundation operations in the building.

"The people who were let in stayed," she said. "We’re just cooperating with the police."

A call to Federated was not returned by press time.

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