A man armed with two pistols has been shot dead by police after opening fire near a cathedral in New York.
Officers say the incident happened at the Cathedral of St John the Divine in Manhattan on Sunday near a crowd gathered for a Christmas concert.
As yet the man – who yelled “Kill me” as he began shooting – has not been identified.
Police Commissioner Dermot F Shea said it was “by the grace of God” that nobody had been injured.
The carol service – held outside because of Covid restrictions – had just ended when the shooting began. Cathedral staff wrote on Facebook that the man had “set off a round of gunfire into the air” from the front steps. “Everybody is in shock,” cathedral spokeswoman Lisa Schubert told the New York Times. “There were hundreds of people here, and he shot at least 20 times.”
Three officers nearby fired 15 rounds at the suspect after he began to shoot, the commissioner said. At least one bullet hit the man in the head. A bag filled with gasoline, knives, rope, wire, a Bible and some tape was recovered from the scene, as well as two semi-automatic handguns.
“I think we can all surmise the ill intentions of the proceeds of this bag,” Commissioner O’Shea told reporters.
Reuters news agency photographs show the gunman wearing a face mask bearing the flag of the Dominican Republic as well as a black winter coat and a white cap.
Authorities are awaiting fingerprints to confirm his identity, but police officials told the New York Times his identification said he was a 52-year-old man with a previous conviction for second-degree murder and a lengthy criminal record.
Manhattan borough President Gale Brewer confirmed on Twitter that members of her staff had been at the event and thanked the police for their response.