NEW YORK – The man killed by police Sunday after he opened fire on the steps of a landmark New York City cathedral had a note in his pocket that said he had planned to take hostages and use them as leverage to get U.S. aid for Latin America, a law enforcement official said Wednesday.
Luis Vasquez, 52, started shooting as people were leaving a Christmas choral concert that had just ended outside the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in Manhattan, the mother church of the Episcopal Diocese of New York.
Witnesses said they heard Vasquez screaming, "Shoot me! Kill me!” as police officers at the event returned fire, killing him. No one else was injured.
In the note — which police found along with Vasquez’s two semiautomatic handguns and a backpack containing at least five lengths of rope, four lighters, tape, knives, a can of gasoline and a Bible — the gunman railed against the U.S. government’s treatment of Latin America.
He wrote of a U.S. regime that “has committed robbery and more against the people of Latin America,” according to the law enforcement official, who was not authorized to speak publicly and did so on condition of anonymity.
The note was first reported by NBC New York.
Vasquez, a native of the Dominican Republic who lived with his mother in the Bronx, wrote that the hostages he sought to take would not be harmed if the U.S. government, financial institutions and other entities met his demands to provide money to impoverished people in Latin America.
Vasquez, dressed in black with his face obscured by a white baseball cap and a face mask bearing the Dominican flag, held a silver pistol in one hand and a black one in the other as he stepped from behind a stone column at the top of the staircase and started firing. It wasn’t clear if he was aiming at people or firing in the air.