A Bible-toting man with a gun in each hand opened fire at a Christmas concert on the front steps of St. John the Divine Cathedral in Harlem on Sunday before being fatally shot in the head by cops, The New York Times reports.
Terrified onlookers raced for cover — with security guards quickly ushering some event attendees into the church and closing its large doors behind them, while others cowered behind cars — as the screaming gunman fired into the air from the top step of the famous church at West 112st Street and Amsterdam Avenue.
Police said the man started shouting “Kill me! Kill me!” and shooting at the big metal door in the center of the church.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said at a press briefing at the scene that the gunman had a “lengthy criminal history’’ and was armed to the teeth, with “a full can of gasoline, rope, wire, multiple knives, a Bible and tape’’ in his backpack, in addition to the two guns he had. Both handguns were recovered at the scene, police said.
A concert featuring holiday carolers on the steps of the church had just finished when the shooter — eerily dressed in a black jacket and pants while wearing the red-strapped backpack, white baseball hat and red, white and blue COVID-19 face mask — showed up, according to witnesses and a photo.
“People were invited into the church, and that’s when he sort of appeared,’’ Shea said.
The witness who heard the man shout, “Kill me!’’ said, “Security, they brought people all inside when he was firing and shut the door.”
The gunman had a silver handgun in his right hand and a black one in the other.
Police received about a dozen 911 calls from the scene saying shots were fired, and officers outside the church saw the gunman blasting his weapons, an NYPD rep told The Times.
“He was shooting it up in the air and toward police,” a high-ranking department source said of the suspect.
Romer said police repeatedly ordered the gunman to put his weapons down but he kept asking the officers to shoot and kill him.
— Voice Of Wales (@VoiceOfWales) December 13, 2020
An NYPD sergeant and detective from the 26th Precinct, along with a police sergeant working security for the church, were the ones who opened fire on the man, law-enforcement sources said.
“You’ve seen three officers acting heroic: A sergeant, detective and police officer and engaging an armed perpetrator, putting themselves in harm’s way to pull people that have 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 any one struck.”
As the gunman lay mortally wounded on the top steps of the church, a mass of cops with their weapons drawn approached him, yelling, “Don’t move! Don’t move!’’