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Nude Man Attacks Worshippers Inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral

September 22, 1988

NEW YORK (AP) _ A naked man ran into St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Wednesday night and attacked people with an iron prayer bookstand, killing one man and injuring a police officer before being shot to death by other officers, authorities said.

That morning, the man attended Mass at the cathedral celebrated by Cardinal John O’Connor and stood directly before the cardinal as he administered the eucharist, O’Connor told reporters.

The man entered the historic midtown church stark naked around 8 p.m. carrying red carnations, repeatedly hit a woman praying in a pew, walked to a front altar where he ripped the prayer book stanchion from the floor, and then struck and killed an usher and wounded a police officer with it, police and witnesses said.

The man was shot and killed by a backup police unit after he used the three-foot-long stanchion to attack a police officer who tried to subdue him, said Sgt. Raymond O’Donnell, a police spokesman.

Lt. Al Barrasso, a spokesman for Emergency Medical Service, said the officer, Jimmy McManus, was taken to Bellevue Hospital with head and shoulder injuries. He was listed in serious condition.

The usher, John Winters, died about 50 feet from the altar.

The woman’s injuries were not immediately known. ″She gets up. I don’t think she was that hurt. She runs out of the church,″ said Thomas Clark, an eyewitness.

O’Connor said at an evening news conference that the naked man had stood before him during communion at the morning Mass.

″The man came up and stood in front of me,″ he said. ″I felt he was totally disoriented. The cathedral is a magnet for all people. People sleep in it and engage in the strangest behavior in the cathedral. I patted him on the shoulder and said, ‘God bless you.’ He stood for a moment and left.″

The cardinal said that the man allegedly had committed acts of minor vandalism in and around the church in the past.

Described by O’Connor as ″big″ and ″powerful″ the man was able to rip the metal stanchion out of the marble floor to which it was bolted.

Witness Scott Lucas, 56, said he saw the man tear off his shorts and white shirt on a street near the church.

″He suddenly stopped, stripped, and headed up the street. He was obviously disturbed,″ Lucas said. ″He was not aware of anybody else.″

Lucas said the man was ″chanting under his breath″ from the time he took off his clothes, which were found at 50th Street and Rockefeller Plaza.

A parishioner, Peggy Strassburg, identified the dead church employee as an usher who was about 75 years old.

The officer was taken to Bellevue Hospital with head and shoulder injuries, and was listed in serious condition, Barrasso said.

The attacker was shot once in the chest and pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

Luis Gonzalez, 18, of Brooklyn, said the man was already in the middle of the church and approaching the woman when he and his mother arrived to light some candles for loved ones.

″He had a belt in his hand and was hitting her in the back and all over. He was crazy hitting her with the belt. He must have hit her more than 10 times.″ Gonzalez said.

″Everyone backed away. Then the cops rushed in. She was screaming very loud that she was getting hit and needed help. But everyone was running away from her. We ran,″ Gonzalez said.

″She was screaming like she was in terrible pain,″ he said.

The man was lying in the middle aisle of the church after he was shot, said Thomas Clark, who witnessed the incident.

″The police officer was trying to convince him to leave″ when the man attacked him with a metal stand, Clark said.

Update hourly