NEW YORK (AP) – The United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York City was locked down for several hours on Thursday after a man was seen pacing outside one of its main gates with a loaded shotgun, holding it under his chin at times, police said.
The man, who appeared to be in his 60s, was taken into custody without incident at around 1.40pm, about three hours after police said he was first spotted outside a UN security checkpoint on Manhattan’s First Avenue. He was taken to a hospital for evaluation, NYPD Chief of Special Operations Harry Wedin said.
The gun was loaded with one shotgun shell, Wedin said. The man also had a bag with him and gave police documents, included medical papers, that he said he wanted delivered to the UN, Wedin said.
UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said that “as part of the negotiations with NYPD, the man said he wanted to first give some papers to the UN”.
“Our Security officers took possession of the papers,” Dujarric said. “As soon as the man surrendered, we returned the papers to the NYPD. The papers appeared to be of a medical nature, nothing related to the UN.”
The gates on the fence that rings the UN complex were closed, and the man didn’t appear to be trying to breach the security perimeter. Police said there was no danger to the public.
Wedin said the man never pointed the gun at officers and did not threaten to harm them.
NYPD First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker said there was no evidence of a link to terrorism. There was no note in the man’s papers, Tucker said, but detectives were looking into names and notations on the documents for clues to his behaviour.
“Essentially, he wanted the UN to receive his documents, which is ultimately what we agreed to do – provide those documents to the UN – and he said if we could do that, he would put the gun down, which is exactly what happened,” Tucker told reporters outside UN headquarters.
Tucker said the man was visiting from Florida and walked to the UN from the Millennium Hotel, a few blocks away near Times Square, where he’d been staying since Wednesday.
Tucker said the bomb squad swept the hotel, the man’s room and a pickup truck connected to him that was parked outside the hotel and found no outstanding threats.
Tucker said criminal charges were pending. He did not identify the man by name, but said he didn’t have a criminal record. People inside UN headquarters were initially told to shelter in place, but were later allowed to move about the complex and come and go from other entrances. The UN General Assembly and Security Council were both in session on Thursday.
A 911 call reporting the man to police was placed from inside the UN building, Tucker said.
“We thank the NYPD for their quick response to the incident and we remain in contact with them as they conduct their investigation,” UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said in a statement.
Dujarric said earlier there was “zero indication” the man was a current or former UN employee.