Caught in the line of fire by police officers, two women were shot near crowded Times Square in Manhattan last night. The bystanders were wounded as police struggled to deal with a man who was behaving erratically. The man had "simulated" firing a gun at police; he was not found to have a weapon.
The incident began just after 9:30 p.m. Saturday, when police say an agitated man was running around in traffic in the area of 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue.
As officers approached him, the man "reached into his pocket, took out his hand, and simulated as if he was shooting at them," New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said at a news conference held at Bellevue Hospital Center early Sunday, according to the New York Daily News.
Two police officers fired a total of three shots near the Port Authority Bus Terminal; none of them reportedly hit their target.
A woman, 54, was struck in the lower leg, breaking two bones. A bullet grazed the buttock of another woman, 35. Both victims were taken to the hospital for treatment. The man, 35, was eventually taken into custody after being Tased.
One witness, Kerri Ann Nesbeth, took a striking photo and posted it to Twitter, saying, "Omg just witnessed NYPD gun down a pedestrian in Times Square."
Her photo shows a woman wearing long pants who seems to have been shot just below her knee, lying on a ventilation grate on the sidewalk, still clutching her walker.
Nesbeth later tweeted, "I can not compose myself right now ... She was right next to me."
Other photos from the scene show a large man fending off police in the middle of the street. Videos posted to YouTube show the scene on the sidewalk before the shootings occurred, and the confusion and panic that ensued.
"The guy was like wandering in the street like he was lost, and he's a pretty big guy," a witness tells CBS 2 TV. "There was one officer that was trying to get him to come out of the middle of traffic, and, I don't know, he looked like he was on something because he kept trying to move and run, and he ... dove in front of a car, and it almost ran him over."
Dozens of police who responded to the scene shortly after the shooting finally succeeded in cornering the man.
"He was just running around avoiding police," another witness, Fabiola Ferere, tells the New York Post. "The police literally could not control him. He had to be on something, like narcotics or bath salts."
Witnesses reported that the man had been struck by at least one car — but Kelly said that was not the case.
"It appeared that he wanted to be struck by cars," Kelly said, according to The New York Times. He added that the only thing in the man's pockets was his wallet.
Citing Kelly, the newspaper says the two officers involved in the shooting have one and a half years and three years of experience.