A gunman has been shot dead by police after firing semiautomatic handguns from the steps of a New York City cathedral following a Christmas carol concert.
The gunman was brandishing two weapons and fired on police officers providing security for St John the Divine Cathedral in Harlem on Sunday afternoon.
After the concert finished the man appeared on stairs outside the cathedral and shouted “Kill me,” and “shoot me”.
The gunman, who is believed to be in his 50s but has not been identified, was repeatedly ordered to drop his weapons before being shot by the officers, and was rushed to hospital where he later died.
He was wearing a black winter coat, a white baseball-style cap and a face mask emblazoned with the flag of the Dominican Republic, according to reports.
No-one else was injured in the incident.
The NYPD later tweeted out a picture of a bag found nearby that contained a container of gasoline, rope, wire, multiple knives, a bible and tape.
“I think we can all surmise the ill intentions of the proceeds of this bag,” said New York City Police commissioner Dermot Shea.
The shooting occurred outside the landmark cathedral for the Episcopal Diocese of New York, located at Amsterdam Avenue and West 112th Street, about 15 minutes after the conclusion of an outdoor choir performance on the church steps attended by about 200 people.
The choir’s annual Christmas holiday concert had been moved outside in keeping with Covid-19 health safety rules. The performers and most of the audience had either gone inside the church or left before the shooting began, Mr Shea said.
Only about 15 people were still present when the gunman appeared at the top of the steps, screaming, “Kill me,” and “shoot me,” as he fired a handgun, sending bystanders running for cover in panic, according to a Reuters photographer who was on the scene.
Police officers who had taken cover ordered the suspect several times to drop his weapon before shooting him, the photographer said. Members of the choir were already back inside the church by the time of the shooting, which lasted several minutes, she added.
“Thankfully, this year with Covid, there was a much smaller event than normal,” Mr Shea said. “It is by the grace of God today that we don’t have anyone struck.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Twitter that “quick action of our NYPD officers kept the crowd safe.”