NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said police recovered two semi-automatic firearms owned by the suspect and a bag containing a full can of gasoline, rope, wire, multiple knives, a bible and tape.
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said the incident occurred at 3:45 p.m. when a man shouted “kill me” and fired multiple shots just outside the doors of the church at the conclusion of the caroling concert.
Shea said that a police officer and community affairs detective who were in the area, and a sergeant located at St. Luke’s Hospital nearby responded almost immeidately, firing a total of 15 shots at the gunman. At least one of the shots struck the gunman in the head. He was taken to the hospital in critical condition, where he was later pronounced dead.
Shea praised the actions of his officers.
“I can tell you from the preliminary body camera – and again, this is quick – that we watched, you see three officers acting heroically, sergeant, detective and police officer, engaging an armed perpetrator, putting themselves in harm’s way to pull people that are literally hiding behind these poles behind me caught in the crossfire,” Shea said. “So it is by the grace of God today that we don’t have anyone struck.”
Police recovered two semi-automatic firearms owned by the suspect at the scene. In addition, police found a bag nearby believed to be owned by the suspect, which contained a full can of gasoline, rope, wire, multiple knives, a bible and tape.
Authorities are currently investigating the motive behind the incident. The identity of the gunman, who Shea says is believed to have a “lengthy criminal history”, has not been released as police await fingerprint verification.
Shea added that the NYPD intends to release the body camera footage of the incident within the next 30 days.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer confirmed the incident early Sunday, adding that she, her Chief of Staff and her press secretary were at the scene and were safe.
“We don’t have a lot of information but our gratitude goes out to first responders,” she added.
The Cathedral Choir performs on the steps of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in New York. A man was shot by police after shots rang out at the end of the Christmas choral concert on the steps of the Manhattan cathedral Sunday afternoon. It’s unclear if the gunman was killed or if any others were injured. The shooting happened just before 4 p.m. at the church which is the mother church of the Episcopal Diocese of New York and seat of its bishop. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)
Concert attendee Shayoni Mitra said in a tweet that she was headed back home from the event when she saw people running away from the scene.
“We started walking back, me with two other Barnard colleagues one of whom with close ties to St John the Divine. And as we rounded to 110th street people were already running. One person said there was a shooting,” she wrote in a thread. “We heard what sounded like loud hammering.”
Mitra also posted footage of the concert with the caption: “Cowards will not silence us. Hate cannot win.”
The cathedral issued a statement in a Twitter thread that everyone connected to the church who was participating in or watching the Christmas concert is safe.
“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. We will remain strong, together, and serve as a safe space for prayer, meditation and celebration during the upcoming holiday season,” the church wrote. “We are grateful to our first responders, and our prayers are with all those affected by this event.”
The performance was the cathedral’s first public event since the coronavirus pandemic hit the Big Apple, according to the New York Post.