Dominick Williams was walking along Jamaica Avenue in Queens, New York, last week when he saw four New York Police Department officers standing in a pose that he thought looked "pretty dope."
The Motion View Pictures photographer asked the cops if he could take their picture and "reasonably I got the ok," he wrote on Facebook. Williams began taking a few shots but within seconds found himself in the middle of a violent attack involving a hatchet and an attacker later identified as Zale Thompson, who was labeled by the police commissioner as a homegrown terrorist.
"[...] As I proceed to show the four officers the photos, a gentlemen charges from my left (with a hatchet) in turn would be the four officers right, I can say blind side," Williams wrote in a Facebook post last Friday. "The officer on the far right end of the photo hollers, saying 'watch out'. The first officer from the left takes instant precaution as the gentlemen with the hatchet takes his first swing with extreme force and misses.
"The gentlemen with the hatchet presumes to the second officer from the left of the photo," Williams continued. "The second officer a bit slow, dodges the second swing from the gentlemen with hatchet. The gentlemen makes his third attempt catching the second officer on the right of his head.
"The second officer is now down found wounded with a big gash on the right of his head. Shots are now fired (estimate of seven)."
Though he "scattered" at the sound of gun shots, Williams wrote that he came back to "capture more photos for an end result."
Further removed from the incident, Williams told the New York Daily News this week that the whole scene "happened so fast."
“But I was eager to capture the photos. I knew what it was about. I knew what these photos would mean. I was gonna leave, but I went back," he told the News.
In a phone interview with TheBlaze Tuesday, Williams, a 21-year-old who works at Home Depot and considers photography his vocation, said he felt something draw him to stop and take that initial photo of the officers "just chilling."
"I knew that it would mean something just have them photographed grouped together," he said, comparing it to the famous photograph of iron workers taking a break on a beam high above the city.
Williams didn't know at the time he would be on hand to witness so much more in the incident.
To the Huffington Post, Williams recalled some of the conversation during the chaos between officers:
As other officers called for backup, Williams said he could hear one of the cops saying "Holy [s**t], oh my god," and another telling their wounded partner to stay calm.
"He was telling him 'keep your head down, it's going to be ok, everything's going to be all right.'"
Overall, Williams told TheBlaze feedback to his photographs has been positive.
"I’ve gotten one message where I feel like it was a threat, but I took it lightly," he said. "I’ve been laughing at a lot of things I’ve seen going on on my Facebook ... it has awakened me. It’s eye opening just to know what kind of people we have out there, you know."
In the end, 32-year-old Thompson was killed and a bystander was hit and treated for a bullet in the back. One officer was hospitalized with a head wound.
New York City police Commissioner William Bratton, after reviewing the hatchet attack on the rookie officers, said it was a terrorist act by a homegrown radical.
In this frame grab taken from video provided by the New York Police Department, an unidentified man approaches New York City police officers with a hatchet, Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014, in the Queens borough of New York. The man injured two with the hatchet before the other officers shot and killed him, police said. A bystander was wounded in the gunfire. Investigators were still trying to confirm the identity of the assailant and determine a motive. (AP/New York Police Department)
Bratton said Friday the suspect was a Muslim convert who ranted online against America, but had no clear ties to international terrorism. He believes Thompson was self-radicalized.
Police are examining Thompson's computer for clues as to whether the attack was planned. In doing so, Bratton said investigators found that Thompson browsed for organized terror groups, as well as beheadings and the shooting in Canada earlier this week.
Authorities also are trying to determine if Thompson had any history of mental illness. But overall Bratton said he is comfortable calling it a "terrorist attack."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.