NEW YORK – Lincoln Rocha had just taken some photographs of his wife while they visited crowded Times Square on a hot summer day when he saw a man nearby start to back away from police officers who were talking to him.
When they reached out to grab the man, Rocha said, “He just went for his knife.” The officers went for their guns, and Rocha went for his camera.
“When I saw the officers draw their guns, I was sure they would kill him,” the Brazilian tourist said Sunday, the day after the man, 51-year-old Darrius Kennedy, was shot to death by police, who said he lunged at officers while holding an 11-inch kitchen knife.
“If they’re going to kill him, I want to take some pictures. I want to record it,” Rocha said.
Kennedy was smoking marijuana near the military recruiting station in Times Square at about 3 p.m. Saturday when officers first approached, police said. It was the beginning of an encounter that would stretch for seven of the most crowded blocks in New York City in midafternoon and end a few minutes later with 12 gunshots and many witnesses.
As officers spoke to Kennedy, he became agitated, pulled out the knife and began to put a bandanna on his head, police said. He ignored orders to drop the knife and began backing away, continuing for blocks as he waved the knife and drew officers into a low-speed pursuit that itself lured onlookers.
Rocha said the unusual scene was the first time he had seen anything like it in several visits to New York City.
Though Rocha stayed put, held back by his wife’s insistence, the others following the chase pulled out cellphones to capture footage and, in some cases, offer commentary.
Numerous officers can be seen going down the street in a video on the website of the New York Daily News.
According to the police, officers pepper-sprayed Kennedy six times, but he held onto the knife throughout, wiping the spray off his face. Finally, he lunged at police, and two officers shot him in the torso, police said.
Kennedy was pronounced dead at Bellevue Hospital.
Kennedy, who lived in Hempstead, N.Y., and was a native of South Carolina, had been arrested 10 times, including seven for marijuana possession, police said.