Patrons at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art were evacuated Saturday afternoon after two employees were stabbed inside the iconic establishment by a man who was involved in two incidents of disorderly conduct at the museum in recent days, police said.
The two employees were stabbed in the back, the collar bone and in the back of the neck and were rushed to Bellevue Hospital within minutes of the attack. They received immediate medical attention and are expected to survive, said Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller during a news conference on Saturday evening.
“At approximately 4:15 this afternoon, an individual entered the museum, attempted to gain entrance presenting his membership card and was denied entrance because his membership had expired. His membership had expired as a result of two incidents involving disorderly conduct here at the museum on two separate dates in recent days,” Miller said.
Miller said upon being denied entrance to the museum, the suspect became angry and then jumped over the reception desk and attacked two museum employees, stabbing them multiple times.
The NYPD is currently looking for the suspect, described as a 60-year-old White male wearing a black jacket and surgical mask. His description was released immediately over division radio units in the area and a search was initiated by units that responded to the vicinity of the scene, according to Miller.
The suspect, who is a regular at the MoMA, entered the building Saturday with the intention of attending a film at the iconic landmark. He is known to the NYPD, Miller said, and is wanted by the department in connection with two incidents that occurred in Midtown Manhattan, where the museum is located, prior to Saturday’s double stabbing. The man was caught on video leaving the museum and police have a direction of his flight, he added.
“The individual involved in this incident is known to us and we are endeavoring to locate this person right now,” Miller said. The incident is still unfolding and the investigation is in its early stages, he said.
Mayor Eric Adams said he was briefed on the incident on Saturday and his press secretary tweeted that it “appears to be an isolated, criminal incident.”
“We can report that the two victims are being taken care of at Bellevue Hospital and are expected to survive their injuries,” Adams tweeted. “We’re grateful for the quick work of our first responders.”
Adams asked for the public’s help in locating the individual, tweeting: “Please continue to avoid the area while Police continue their investigation and if you have any information, please contact the NYPD immediately. Public safety is our top priority.”
In videos shared on social media, dozens of people are seen leaving the museum in a large crowd.
“We weren’t told what was going on, just that they had to close the exhibits immediately,” MoMA patron Tina Rook told CNN. “A woman did say it was an emergency,” Rook said, adding that the whole incident was handled very well by police and museum officials.
NYC’s official emergency management agency informed residents of road closure and emergency personnel at the scene near West 53rd Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan, according to a tweet on Saturday afternoon.
Miller said there was ample security in the area at the time of the incident but described it as a “rapidly unfolding spontaneous incident.”
The incident in the renowned New York museum occurred as the city experiences a continued wave of violent crime this year.
Mayor Eric Adams has begun implementing his comprehensive plan to combat gun violence and crime in the city. Part of the plan includes reviving the NYPD’s controversial anti-crime unit. Neighborhood safety teams will be tasked with patrolling high-crime neighborhoods starting on Monday.
The city recorded a 41% increase in overall major crime through the first months of 2022 compared to the same period last year, including a nearly 54% increase in robberies, a 56% increase in grand larceny incidents and a 22% increase in rape reports, the data shows. Adams unveiled his “Blueprint to End Gun Violence” in January, which includes long-term goals to grow economic opportunities, improve child education and provide more access to mental health resources while addressing the gun crisis.