Gun Battle Erupts at Cathedral of St. John the Divine

Police outside the cathedral. Photo by Any Schiffrin.

Officers shot a man who was firing his weapon outside the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Sunday afternoon, according to a police spokesperson.

The shootout occurred around 3:45 p.m. outside 112th and Amsterdam Avenue. Police responded to multiple calls about gunfire and saw a man discharging a weapon. They returned fire, striking him, the spokesperson said.

He was taken to Mt. Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital and listed in critical condition. No one else was reported injured. Update: Councilmember Mark Levine, who represents the area, later wrote that the man had died.

Police did not have further information on what led to the man opening fire.

The Cathedral said it occurred on the steps.

It occurred just after a caroling event outside the Cathedral. Anya Schiffrin, a journalism professor at Columbia who attended the concert, spoke to witnesses who told her that the shooter appeared to be a middle-aged white man dressed in black. He was shooting into the air, they told her.

Levine wrote on Twitter that the man climbed scaffolding inside the church and shot into the air, and that he “appeared to be mentally ill.” He also wrote that man was yelling that he wanted to be killed.

Levine later amended the statement to say that the shooting had occurred on the steps.

Other witnesses also wrote that the shooting sounded like it came from inside the church.

The Hungarian Pastry Shop at 111th and Amsterdam invited people in and ushered them to the back of the store after the gunfire started, Schiffrin said.
Amsterdam Avenue was blocked off between 110th and 113th Street.

This is a breaking news story. We expect to have more updates later.

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NEWS | 27 comments | permalink
    1. Judy G. says:

      How did this man get a gun?? New York is THE most restrictive state in the area of gun control. Clearly more must be done to stop the sale and trading of weapons!

      • Emilyhelen says:

        Guns are a dime a dozen on the streets of New York. Our gun laws do nothing to stop people from acquiring weapons.

      • Hollis says:

        Assuming it is an illegal gun then it most likely came from out of state, probably from the South like most illegal guns in NYC. We can have the strictest gun laws in America but if neighboring states are lax with their gun laws we will always have this problem.

        • Mark R says:

          Do you perchance have a citation to offer in support of your clearly baseless claims? I know from experience that a NY resident cannot buy a handgun in Florida. Long gun – maybe, only if it’s NY-compliant. Handguns are sold only to Florida residents. Is Florida not “the South” anymore?

          For all those reading at home: I recommend that you go to YouTube and watch one of the countless videos detailing how it’s not actually that easy to get a gun in “the South”.

    2. Roschel Holland Stearns says:

      The shooting was after the outdoor concert was over. The man was on the top of the steps of the cathedral. There were still many people standing around after the concert and most ran as if for their lives.

    3. J. L. Rivers says:

      Addressing mental illness and homelessness must be front and center in the next mayoral campaign.

      • DrM says:

        There will always be mental illness. Subsequently there will always be homelessness. Yes, these issues need to be addressed. But since they are, quite literally, never going away no matter what, how about efforts focusing on more appropriate aid and response to those in crisis than bullets??? I think we’ve all seen that police are in no way equipped to handle these situations – and they shouldn’t be. They should, however, be trained to recognize these situations and, MOST importantly, have an educated and trained resource to bring in to actually help the situation. I’m not hopeful since our society as a whole still perceives mental illness as a crime.

      • jill says:


      • Juan says:

        Agreed. And we need to make sure that those with serious mental illness are not free to walk the streets. They need help and should receive it at a place that is most cost-effective for the city, but are also often a safety risk until they have received the help. Those with severe problems should not be allowed to refuse help.

      • Maxwell says:

        “He wanted to be killed”..How sad is this?

    4. LK says:

      Keep releasing criminals into society and see how it works out.
      From NY Post, “We have made staggering numbers of gun arrests, taking guns off the streets from felons … but when you look, three days later, four days later, those individuals are back on the street committing more gun violence,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said Tuesday while announcing shootings have climbed to 1,433 and are on track to reach a 14-year high by the end of 2020. By Thursday, the NYPD had logged an additional 18 shootings, bringing the total to 1,451, the department said.”

      “Of the 3,793 arrested in the first 11 months of the year on gun charges, 247 of them were accused of new crimes within just 60 days of their initial gun arrest, the NYPD said.”

      • Sarah says:

        Arrest does not equal conviction. Honestly, did you skip civics class entirely?

        • Boris says:

          Your exagerated sense of idealism and pedantic thought is superb. I don’t care whether someone has yet to be convicted to feel better that he’s been arrested for carrying a gun. If the cops took a gun off of somebody, that’s enough for me. Don’t understand why you bend over backwards to stress legal points that most would find foolishly applied in a discussion.

        • sg says:

          Civics who needs civics…no doubt that was replaced by a more important, diversity/inclusive, social justice or some other nonsensical topic.

    5. Charlie S says:

      Yes at least one person was injured in the melee and is in St. Luke’s ER with a likely broken leg.

    6. Chris says:

      Kudos to the venerable Hungarian Pastry Shop, the best bakery in town!

    7. Diane Baker says:

      Suicide by Officer

    8. Carlos says:

      Kudos to NYPD for their handling of this situation and minimizing the number of people who were hurt.

    9. Joey says:

      This would have been a good time for a social worker to intervene and deescalate the situation. Really, is defunding the police what we want?

      • NYYgirl says:

        Social workers do an unbelievably huge amount of work for not nearly enough pay, and deserve way more recognition (not to mention dollars), but the first responders made a choice in a matter of seconds. They had no other choice. Somebody – yes, a tragic individual- was shooting guns, plural, in the direct vicinity of hundreds of people. The NYPD saved possibly multiple lives of all ages and colors, and we should be thankful. And taking one second to think about what would drive another human being to find themselves in such despair can only reinforce our own compassion for human life in general.

    10. jimbo says:

      You got it wrong Chris.Kudos to the NYPD for stoppong this incident in a timely manner.Defund the police—great idea(NOT)..

    11. Monica Bongiorno says:

      I was there w/ one of my best friends, John to celebrate the holiday season w/ some amazing inspiring choral music. And it was fantastic…. one minute while we all enjoyed music on the steps of this magnificent church. while it had just ended up, the shooting began. We are adults and this was unnerving & scary. I can’t imagine how children get thru this in school shootings. How do they cope.

    12. Wendy says:

      I was there, we have video footage. Police did a great job, the community affairs cop was the one doing the shooting. Very measured and steady. Shocking to witness. Apparently the shooter had a bag of bad stuff, including gasoline, knives, rope and a bible….they think it was a suicide by cop baiting. Thank goodness it wasn’t worse – shooter could’ve taken many people out. memento mori

    13. Wendy Deutelbaum says:

      Just to add to the Hungarian Pastry helpfulness comments, we were at Book Culture during the shooting and they, too, were protective and helpful, closing the door, turning out the lights, etc. Thanks for taking care of your customers during an unknown and scary situation.