The gunman who opened fire on the steps of a Manhattan cathedral before being shot by police detailed his apparent attack plans in writing, claiming his goal was to take hostages -- and never expected to return home.
A senior law enforcement official told NBC New York that Luis Vasquez wrote in a note found in his pocket that he would take hostages during his ploy at the Cathedral of St. John the Devine, but that none would be hurt unless his demands were ignored.
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.
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, but he did not outline or explain the plan to take hostages either -- perhaps explaining why rope, duct tape and knives were with him at the time, in addition to the gun he had fired off multiple times.
It remains unclear why Vasquez chose to target the historic Morningside Heights cathedral, which was hosting an annual Christmas concert moments before erupting into chaos sparked by the lone gunman. He fired off multiple shots as people outside fled for cover.
Investigators are pursuing "suicide by cop" as a leading theory for what happened, the officials said. Multiple witnesses of the shooting say they heard the man yelling at police to shoot him.
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"The shooter said, 'just shoot me! Shoot me! Kill me! Kill me!' He kept daring the police officer to do so," witness Judy Romer said. "I ran as fast as I could but only after the other people ran. I couldn't believe it. I just couldn't believe it."
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said the exact number of rounds fired by the suspect had not yet been determined. The officers who responded to the incident and returned fire shot 15 times, Shea said. The gunman was struck in the head by at least one of those bullets, and was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The NYPD was at Vazquez's apartment Monday morning, preparing to search it. Photos from the scene showed a copy of the Ten Commandments posted on the 52-year-old's front door, written in Spanish. A look inside a bag believed to have belonged to Vasquez indicates how deadly a situation the shooting could've been, with some of the possible hostage-taking tools found inside, along with a Bible.
The Dominican Republic native had a lengthy criminal history that included shooting at a woman and police in 1990, for which he served time in prison. He was already wanted for an incident of menacing with a gun from this past summer. Prior to that, Vazquez had been arrested six times over the past 30 years.