A man was shot dead by police after he opened fire near crowds who had gathered to watch carol-singing outside a New York church on Sunday.

New York Police Department Commissioner Dermot Shea said no one was injured during the shooting on the steps of the Cathedral of St John the Divine in Manhattan.

Three police officers fired a total of 15 shots at the man, Shea told reporters.

"The defendant was struck at least once in the head and is deceased," he said.

Police recovered two guns from the scene and a bag found nearby that had a full container of gasoline, rope, wire, and multiple knives.

New York shooting
Police patrol inside the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York on December 13, 2020, after a shooter opened fire outside the church Photo: AFP / Kena Betancur

An AFP journalist who witnessed the incident said she saw the man firing shots from the church steps as a few hundred people started to disperse when the outdoor choral concert finished shortly before 4:00 pm (2100 GMT).

"I heard two or three booms that were really loud," she said. "I looked up and maybe ten meters away from me on the stairs there was a guy shooting.

"I saw the bursts of gunfire coming out of the gun and I just started to run away. I just ran for my life."

Witness Martha Stolley said the man fired eight to ten shots before a police officer shot him.

"He was shooting without aiming at anybody," she told AFP, adding that the man was shouting "Shoot me, kill me."

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