New Details Emerge About Cathedral Shooter; Note Indicates He Planned to Take Hostages

Photo by Amelia Roth-Dishy.

By Carol Tannenhauser

More details have emerged about the gunman who terrorized a crowd of concert-goers last Sunday at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, firing two guns into the air from the top of the Cathedral’s steps, shouting ‘Kill me! Kill me!” at police, in an apparent “suicide by cop.”

But Luis Vasquez had other plans and motives as well, a note found in his pocket revealed, according to police. NBC New York was the first to learn of the note. It said that Vasquez planned to take hostages — who wouldn’t be hurt if his demands were met.

“In the note, the 52-year-old wrote that he was going to keep the hostages unless the U.S., its banks and companies gave money to help the needy of Latin America,” NBC reported. “Vasquez voiced his anger at the ‘U.S. regime which has committed robbery and more against the people of Latin America.’ He also wrote that he did not envision returning to his Bronx apartment, where he lived with his mother…”

Vasquez’s backpack contained a canister of gasoline, rope, knives and a Bible, suggesting “sinister” intentions, according to The New York Times. “He had a history of violent offenses, including shooting at police officers and a woman in 1990. He had several arrests spanning 30 years and was wanted for threatening someone with a gun over the summer, the police said.”

Mr. Vasquez’s sister, Maria Vasquez-Montalvo, told The Times that “her brother had changed after a string of arrests that landed him in prison in the 1990s. He emerged a ‘damaged’ man, she said, and his mental state had worsened recently during the pandemic.”

Mr. Vasquez immigrated from the Dominican Republic in 1976 and grew up in the neighborhood on West 109th Street. He died in a hospital next to the Cathedral.

NEWS | 10 comments | permalink
    1. good humor says:

      The virus, and the shutdown, are separate but major causes of not just loss of life and livelihood but also extreme anxiety and stress that can afflict the mentally unstable.

    2. ES says:

      I am grateful that he wasn’t able to hurt more people. I saw a video of the shootout. The terror that this caused for others and will likely last. He chose to live in this country. He broke lots of laws. He harmed others. He criticized this country. He threatened to harm more people. Hostages? I shed no tears. Stop using mental illness as the excuse or reason to explain away evil. Again, I’m just glad he can’t harm any more innocent people.

    3. LivableCity says:

      When a ‘damaged’ man (his sister’s word) begs to die, and shoots into the air so that cops will shoot him, all we can do is offer a prayer for him, and for his family, and for the first responders. There cant be much as far as humane policy at that point. That scene was the last in a life that sounds plagued with trouble and violence. Whatever other notions, intentions, or delusions he might have had, with his sinister equipment and writings – we will never know. We don’t even know if he was trying to do more damage, or trying to stop himself doing more damage when he asked to die. Those delusions can be horrible to suffer. Thankful that others were not hurt. Please support better services for those with persistent psychiatric illness. It should never have to come to this.

    4. TJ Adams says:

      Glad no one was hurt but damage was emotionally done to many there, including children. He was just a criminal who had been a problem many times before. I have no sympathy for him!

      • M.A.C says:

        The point of feeling pity or asking for assistance for those with mental illness, or even violent pasts, is that you are trying to PREVENT such tragedies in the future — doing our best to eliminate the trauma suffered by all involved (especially the victims). Being aware of those teetering on the edge (whether they are at fault or not) only helps society at large. Bashing the perpetrator after the fact offers little comfort or protection to those involved. GoodHumor’s point about these times exacerbating the weaknesses of all of us (especially the mentally unstable) has great perspective.