A man stabbed two people inside the Museum of Modern Art in New York on Saturday afternoon after he was denied entrance for previous incidents of disorderly conduct, authorities said.
Police said the two people who were stabbed were museum employees. Both were in stable condition at Bellevue hospital.
NYPD deputy commissioner of intelligence and counter-terrorism John Miller said the man’s membership was revoked for two separate incidents of disorderly behaviour at the museum in recent days.
A letter revoking the man’s MoMA membership card was sent to him on Friday, and he showed up late on Saturday afternoon “with the stated intention” of seeing a film being screened at the museum, Miller said.
“He became upset about not being allowed entrance, and then jumped over the reception desk and proceeded to attack and stab two employees of the museum multiple times,” Miller said.
Miller said the employees were stabbed in the back, in the collar bone, in the back of neck and were rushed within minutes to Bellevue. “We’re told they’re going to be OK,” he said.
Miller said police are trying to locate the man. He said law enforcement has video of the man leaving the museum and is aware of the direction he left.
He described the man as a white male wearing a black jacket, blue surgical mask, a colourfully patterned shirt and hood. Miller described the man as a “regular” at the museum, and said the museum had adequate security.
Law enforcement officials are investigating the incident, and the identities of those involved and further details weren’t immediately available.
Social media posts on Twitter showed that the midtown Manhattan museum evacuated patrons Saturday afternoon.
“Due to a police investigation, avoid the area of 53rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue,” a police department tweet said. “Expect emergency vehicles in the surrounding area.”
Witnesses tweeted videos of the evacuation.
Alyssa Katz, deputy editor of The City, an independent New York news nonprofit, wrote: “Went to meet friends at MoMA Greeted with a stampede of people fleeing. Museum being evacuated.”
Katz said she had spoken to visitors from France who said they “saw someone stabbed in the underarm on the first floor”.
Katz also said she had seen New York police officers interviewing witnesses.
“Another witness said two workers stabbed,” she added. “The scene here is calm, considering.”
Another Twitter user wrote: “We weren’t told what was going on, just that they had to close the exhibits immediately. A woman did say it was an emergency. It was handled very well. Hats off to the workers and NYPD.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report