NYPD: Man near NYC Times Square had arrest history

This Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012 photo provided by the New York Police Department shows an 11-inch knife police recovered at the scene where they shot and killed a man Saturday they say lunged at them with the knife in a confrontation that began in Times Square and drew officers and spectators on a chase that ended with shots fired near one of New York's most crowded areas. (AP Photo/New York Police Department)

NEW YORK (AP) — A 51-year-old New York man who was shot to death by police near Times Square had a history of marijuana arrests and had once been taken to a hospital for observation after knocking down garbage cans, authorities said Sunday.

The man was identified as Darrius Kennedy of Hempstead, N.Y., and a native of South Carolina. Police said the encounter began Saturday when an officer approached Kennedy, who was smoking marijuana near the military recruiting station in Times Square, around West 44th Street and Seventh Avenue.

Kennedy became agitated, pulled out an 11-inch knife and began to put a bandanna on his head, police said. He refused repeated orders to drop the weapon and began backing down the avenue, continuing for a number of blocks and drawing many officers into a slow-speed pursuit that took them south of Times Square.

According to the police, officers pepper-sprayed Kennedy six times but he held onto the knife throughout the seven-block pursuit. At West 37th Street, he lunged at police and two officers shot him in the torso, police said. He was pronounced dead at Bellevue Hospital.

Kennedy had been arrested 10 times, including seven for marijuana possession. In 2008, he was taken to a hospital for observation after knocking down garbage cans in Times Square.

Witnesses recalled a chaotic scene in which some bystanders took cover, while others began following the procession down the avenue in an attempt to capture cellphone video of it. On video obtained by NY1 cable news station, a number of officers, guns drawn, can be seen pursuing the man as he appears to skip down Seventh Avenue.

"He was swinging at people as he ran," Jobby Nogver, a 17-year-old visiting from Boston, told The New York Times. Nogver watched as police surrounded the man and fired. "I can't tell you how many shots," he said.

Priscilla Rocha, a tourist from Brazil, was visiting Times Square with her husband when they saw the confrontation.

"I almost had a heart attack," she told the Times. "Everyone started running."