By Nick Zieminski, Reuters
When an outdoor Christmas concert in upper Manhattan turned deadly on a warm Sunday afternoon, a Reuters photographer recorded the violent scene and its aftermath.
Jeenah Moon, based in New York, was assigned to document a holiday music concert on the steps of a historic Episcopal cathedral on Amsterdam Avenue and West 113th Street, held in the fresh air because of coronavirus restrictions. The performance ended and audience members were milling about, hoping for a chance to see inside the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, the world’s second-largest Anglican cathedral.
About quarter of an hour after the music ended, the performers and most of the audience had either gone inside the church or left, when Moon heard a bang.
“I thought it might be a gunshot but I thought maybe a flat tire… I heard the faint sound, very quickly, three seconds, boom, boom, boom. I didn’t know how close. I thought it (might) be a few blocks away.”
“It was happening maybe two to three times, and someone shouted out, ‘Gun!”
Moon was a few meters away from the church steps when she saw people running.
She saw a man standing by the church front door, holding two guns and wearing a hat and a mask.
Moon hid behind a vehicle, following her training on how to stay safe for this kind of situation. Working with a 70-200mm telephoto lens, she snapped photos of the man.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) responded quickly, Moon said, arriving in less than five minutes.
“It got a little chaotic,” she said. “I was on the corner, so he didn’t see me, but I was very close to the NYPD when he confronted the suspect.”
The police yelled at the suspect, who was wearing a face covering, to drop the gun, Moon recalled.
“(The gunman) said, ‘Kill me!’. When he tried to shoot, he’s always pointing at the air, not at (people).”
NYPD officers yelled at Moon to get back and led two women to run to safety across Amsterdam Avenue.
One photo, showing the man brandishing the guns, was used by the New York Post on its front page on Monday with the headline, “Gunman Terrorizes St. John the Divine.”
Another of Moon’s photos shows the two women running away from the scene while an officer moves toward the suspect.
Several minutes after the incident began, the gunman was shot dead by police, who said they recovered a bag apparently belonging to the suspect that contained a can of gasoline, rope, wire, several knives, a Bible and tape. No-one else was injured in the incident.
“My heart was beating so fast. This is my first experience with this kind of situation but I was lucky, on the side, so I (was) out of sight,” Moon said. “He was talking straight at the NYPD so I was able to move around, hiding.”
Recalling the events the next day, Moon compared it to an action movie.
“I feel a little numb,” she said. “That was my first time to see a dead body.”