A deranged stagehand was gunned down by city cops in a deadly Off-Broadway drama after threatening the officers Wednesday with an 8-inch knife before a horrified crowd.
The bullets flew — including one that grazed a bystander — after Garry Conrad, 46, terrorized customers and employees inside an Eighth Ave. supermarket while trying to buy a six-pack of beer at 8:25 a.m., cops said.
Minutes later, the armed and enraged man — his huge knife drawn — advanced menacingly toward three cops near the churning intersection of Eighth Ave. and 49th St. in a scene captured by a security camera.
Conrad ignored orders to drop the weapon, police said, before an NYPD sergeant and an officer squeezed off nine shots at the lunatic suspect. The video showed the wounded man kept coming until the bullets left him lifeless in the middle of the street, a police source said.
“The cops had to shoot that guy,” said witness Lisa Caputo, who dived for cover when the shooting started. “He was coming at them with the knife. My insides are quivering.”
Twin rivulets of blood ran on the pavement by the man’s body. One officer was distraught, with his chest heaving wildly, once the shooting stopped. “Thank God for my partner, thank God for my partner,” a witness heard the unidentified cop repeat like a mantra. The gunplay unfolded in a flash near the Broadway theaters housing the hit shows “Wicked” and “The Book of Mormon.”
Everything happened in mere seconds, with the first cop on the scene scuffling with the suspect on the sidewalk before Conrad pulled the knife.
“There were shots, and I looked, and he was on the ground bleeding,” said Food Emporium produce worker Bill Pillot, 25, of the Bronx. “They aired him out.”
Midtown was teeming with tourists, commuters and random pedestrians, including a 46-year-old woman in from California on business. The woman was winged and grazed on the right wrist by one of the bullets, but apparently was not seriously injured, cops said.
The folding knife was recovered near Conrad’s body.
The hard-drinking Conrad most recently handled odd jobs at the Shubert Theatre on W. 44th St., about five blocks south of his final act, sources said.
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A colleague said he was working last month doing a loadout of equipment at the Nederlander Theatre.
Conrad, a member of Local 1 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, was fired from his gig with the hit Broadway musical “Mary Poppins,” a source told the Daily News.
Police sources said Conrad, whose last address was at W. 193rd St. in Washington Heights, had a rap sheet with five arrests — three in the city and two from out of state.
Fellow stagehand Gary Matarazzo, 54, described Conrad as “totally soft-spoken and gentle.”
But Matarazzo acknowledged his pal likely harbored a grudge after a Washington Heights mugging years ago when Conrad was cracked in the skull with a baseball bat. “How do you recover from that?” asked Matarazzo. “He might have had a few anger issues with the city.”
Conrad, a daily visitor and frequent troublemaker at the Food Emporium, was talking to himself Wednesday and yelling at the employees when he arrived in search of beer.
“He comes in the store every day,” said kitchen worker Brenda Dominguez, 48, of Queens. “He’s always drunk. He’s always trouble. He buys cheap beer.”
The middle-aged white man was using the N-word, prompting a retired city cop to call for the NYPD, witnesses said.
The chaotic situation escalated quickly as the first cop on the scene confronted Conrad. He engaged in a sidewalk wrestling match with Conrad, yanking the man to the ground by the straps of his knapsack, sources said.
“It was crazy,” said witness Michael Abbate, 54, a Verizon employee who was working nearby. “People didn’t know where to go. We went to the next corner, and we see the guy lying facedown.”
A police sergeant and another officer came running to the first cop’s aid when Conrad rose from the sidewalk with the knife in his hand, sources said.
“I was working and I heard what sounded like gunshots, four to five gunshots,” said coffee shop worker Dennis Sandusky. “About 30 seconds later, I saw people running down the street, yelling and screaming.”
The wounded woman was taken to Bellevue Hospital with an officer who suffered a slash wound in the initial scuffle. A second officer went to St. Luke’s Hospital with chest pains.
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