NEW YORK - An armed man was shot and killed by police outside The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in Manhattan on Sunday afternoon after he began firing a gun at the end of a Christmas choral concert. The NYPD said no one but the suspected gunman was shot.
The gunfire began just before 4 p.m. at the mother church of the Episcopal Diocese of New York.
A crowd of several hundred people was drifting away when the gunman started shooting, sending people running down Amsterdam Avenue screaming and diving to the sidewalk.
A detective, a sergeant, and a police officer who were at the event fired 15 rounds, killing the man, said New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea.
“It is by the grace of God today,” he said, that no one besides the gunman was struck.
The gunman was dressed in black with his face obscured by a white baseball cap and a face mask. He held a silver pistol in one hand and a black one in the other as he stepped from behind a stone column at the top of the staircase.
Witnesses told police the man was yelling “kill me" as he fired, Shea said. The man's name was not immediately released by police.
The man had a lengthy criminal history and was carrying a backpack containing a can of gasoline, rope, wire, tape, knives, and a well-worn Bible, Shea said. The police commissioner called the actions of the officers “heroic.”
It wasn’t clear if the gunman was aiming at people or firing in the air.
Before the gunfire began, the concert featured members of the cathedral choir standing far apart on the stone steps wearing masks because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is horrible that our choir’s gift to New York City, a much-needed afternoon of song and unity, was cut short by this shocking act of violence," cathedral spokeswoman Iva Benson said by email.
The cathedral is one of the world’s largest. Construction began in 1892 and is still incomplete. The church has been connected to many New York luminaries and notable events over its long history. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a trustee. It hosted the memorial services for puppeteer Jim Henson and choreographer Alvin Ailey, and speakers over the years including South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
The 45-minute concert, held outdoors on the cathedral's steps, had just concluded and people were starting to walk away when a series of shots was heard, sending people running down the street screaming and diving to the sidewalk. Officers who had been on hand to provide security for the event quickly moved in and shot the gunman, who police believe was armed with a rifle.
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With the Associated Press.