A naked knife-wielding man sparked panic in a section of Harlem packed with children and families Thursday afternoon when he began approaching people in the streets with the weapon, police say.
The nude man began strolling near 114th Street and Lenox Avenue at about 4:30 p.m. and harassing people, according to police.
"He was just running around naked," said a witness who only gave her first name as Roe. "They just wanted him to get out because the kids were coming out of school."
Another witness who did not want to give his name said the man was "just swinging, swinging" the knife.
The first responding officers followed the suspect for several blocks as they waited for emergency service units to arrive, police said. They ultimately surrounded him and administered pepper-spray and a stun gun before handcuffing him.
The man was placed in a protective body wrap and taken to St. Luke's Hospital for observation. Charges are pending, police said.
The unusual sight alarmed parents who were picking up their children from school or spending time with them in a nearby park.
"We had a beautiful day with the kids, they're playing in the swings with the sprinklers, we didn't know what was going on," said Nieejah Johnson, who fled the park with her two young daughters when she noticed the man.
One neighbor tried to chase after the knife-swinging man and he yelled at bystanders to "move, move, move" because he wanted the children out of the way, according to Johnson.
Once police officers arrived, she said, "everything kind of dialed down and everyone felt safe."