BRIDGEPORT— Neelton “Sean” Gooden was winding up his workday the same way he had since the grand opening of 4 Corner Billiards downtown six months ago.

He was chatting with his co-owner outside the building on the Bank Street side of McLevy Green about 12:30 a.m. Thursday as they were getting ready to drive home.

That’s when eight to 10 gunshots from across the green abruptly announced the arrival of the city’s soon-to-be seventh homicide of the year — Max Antoine, 33, of Stamford.

“I ducked down,” Gooden recalled Thursday afternoon, back at work at the billiards hall. “He was across the street coming from the other side of State Street. I heard the shots fired. I saw him running — then drop to his knees.”

Gooden said he ran over to where Antoine sprawled in the middle of McLevy, gasping for breath, and called 911. It was already too late; shortly after police arrived, Antoine was pronounced dead at the scene.

“It appears that somebody either followed him or was waiting for him and ended up shooting him,” said police Chief Armando “A.J.” Perez. “They shot him twice.”

Police said Antoine had just left a party, although they did not specify the address.

By late morning, the neighborhood around McLevy — a short walk from the Margaret E. Morton Government Center and several restaurants and other small businesses along State Street— was a maze of yellow police tape.

A half-dozen men in hard hats and safety vests renovating a nearby building gawked as crime scene investigators worked in a drizzling rain, the body still visible during the morning rush hour.

Two electricians walking around the crime tape on the way to their job darkly joked that it reminded them of military tours in Afghanistan.

“I grew up here. (Violence is) the reason I moved out of the city,” said one, a 32-year-old Ansonia resident who declined to give his name.

Eventually, staff from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner removed Antoine’s sheet-draped body, wheeling it off on a gurney and into a van.

Little information about Antoine was released by officials Thursday. A Facebook profile for Max Antoine was flooded with condolences and a link to a GoFundMe page established to support his memorial service.

In Stamford, numerous friends and family gathered at his West Side home, but declined to comment.

Stamford Police Capt. Richard Conklin said that department was assisting Bridgeport with the investigation. Bridgeport investigators were escorted to Antoine’s home in the mid-afternoon.

“We are working together and they have some personnel down here and we are assisting on that. I don’t want to comment too much further on their ongoing investigation,” Conklin said.

“Detectives have been interviewing witnesses and reviewing evidence recovered from the area,” said Bridgeport Capt. Brian Fitzgerald, who oversees the homicide bureau.

Gooden said he was shocked that violence commonly seen in other parts of Bridgeport had extended downtown, which is seeing a boost of new construction, residents and businesses.

“Downtown Bridgeport? That’s the whole reason I opened my business down here because it was supposed to be safe,” Gooden said.

Investigators said they have some leads but are looking for more help solving the crime. Anyone with information is asked to call police at 203-576-TIPS (8477).

Staff Writer John Nickerson contributed to this report