Gunman Opens Fire From NYC Cathedral Steps After Christmas Concert

December 13, 2020 Updated: December 13, 2020

NEW YORK—A gunman was shot down by police on the steps of a landmark New York City cathedral Sunday afternoon after he began firing two semiautomatic handguns after a Christmas choral concert, police said.

A detective, a sergeant, and an officer fired 15 rounds after the man started shooting just before 4 p.m. at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, mother church of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said.

“It is by the grace of God today,” Shea said, that no one besides the gunman was struck. The suspect was shot in the head and died at the scene.

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Emergency medical personnel pull a stretcher up to the scene of a shooting at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City on Dec. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

Witnesses told police the man was yelling “kill me” as he fired, Shea said. The man’s name was withheld pending positive identification.

The man had a lengthy criminal history and was carrying a bag containing a can of gasoline, rope, wire, knives and a Bible, Shea said. The police commissioner called the actions of the officers “heroic.”

The 45-minute concert had just concluded and people were starting to walk away when a series of shots was heard, sending people running down Amsterdam Avenue screaming and diving to the sidewalk.

Before the gunfire began, the concert featured members of the cathedral choir standing far apart on the stone steps wearing masks because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It was just beautiful, and then at the end this person started shooting. Everybody is in shock,” a cathedral spokeswoman, Lisa Schubert, told The New York Times. “The shooter could have killed a lot of people. There were hundreds of people here and he shot at least 20 times.”

The cathedral is one of the world’s largest. Construction began in 1892 and is still incomplete. The church has been connected to many New York luminaries and notable events over its long history. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a trustee. It hosted the memorial services for puppeteer Jim Henson and choreographer Alvin Ailey, and speakers over the years including South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

By Ted Shaffrey