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After shooting two semiautomatic weapons at the end of a Christmas choir performance, a man was fired by police Sunday on the steps of a large cathedral in New York City, police said.
The gunfire started shortly before 4 p.m. The mother church of the Episcopal Diocese of New York is at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine.
A 45-minute concert on the steps of the cathedral had just ended and when the gunman started shooting, a crowd of several hundred people was moving away and people fled screaming down Amsterdam Avenue and onto the pavement.
New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said a detective, a sergeant and a police officer who were at the event fired 15 shots, killing the man.
“It’s by the grace of God,” he said, that no one was injured except the gunman.
The gunman was dressed in black, and a white baseball cap and face mask covered his face.
As he emerged from behind a stone pillar at the top of the stairs, he held a silver gun in one hand and a black one in the other.
The name of the man was not published immediately.
Mr. Shea said that the man had a long criminal background and was carrying a backpack containing a gas can, rope, wire, duct tape, knives, and a worn-out Bible.
The police chief called the actions of the officers “heroic.”
Whether the gunman was shooting at individuals or firing into the air was not evident.
A video posted by a passerby on social media showed officers crouching behind trash cans shouting “drop your weapon” and firing carefully guided shots at the man for at least a minute and a half as he walked in and out behind a pillar.
At the foot of the stairs, some frightened civilians lay helpless, holding each other throughout the gunfire. There were others cowering behind a lamppost. After the shooter was shot down by a police officer, they fled for cover.
Members of the cathedral choir stood far away on the stone steps before the shooting began, wearing masks because of the coronavirus pandemic.
A spokeswoman for the cathedral, Lisa Schubert, told The New York Times, “It was just beautiful, and then this person at the end started shooting. Everyone is in shock,”
“The shooter could have killed a lot of people. There were hundreds of people here and he shot at least 20 times.”
“It is terrible that our choir’s gift to New York City, a much-needed afternoon of song and unity, was interrupted by this shocking act of violence,” Cathedral spokeswoman Iva Benson said by email.
The cathedral is one of the world’s largest. In 1892, work started and is still incomplete.