NEW YORK- A Christmas chorale concert in New York City ended in terror as police calamitously shot a man who opened fire with automatic handguns on the steps of a famed Manhattan cathedral on Sunday.
The gunshots blasted out Sunday afternoon at the mother church of the Episcopal Diocese, Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, and concert audiences were sent taking cover and fleeing in the Morningside Heights neighbourhood.
A detective and police officer were already at the church when the gunshots thudded and retaliated immediately. Another police officer at a neighbouring hospital also responded, said Dermot Shea, the New York Police Commissioner.
“It is by the courtesy of God today” that no concert-goers were shot, he added.
The commissioner said authorities retrieved a bag that contained gasoline and two guns, rope, a bible, knives and tape. While police did not right away release the man’s name, Dermont said he had a lengthy criminal history.
Witnesses told the authorities that the man yelled “kill me” as he shot. Police did not reveal the target for which he was aiming, but the church on the official website said that the gunman fired “into the sky from our front steps.”
“It is terrible that our choir’s present to New York City, a much-needed afternoon of unity and song, was interrupted by this dreadful act of violence,” the church stated in the Facebook post.
Photos showed the gunman putting on a face mask and white hat as he held two guns. He shot from behind a pillar at the front of the church as audiences sought cover at the bottom of the steps. Dermont said the man was lethally shot in the head.
The one-hour concert took place on the church’s steps, with people standing masked and apart due to the COVID-19 pandemic.