Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the NYPD officers drew their weapons and fired 16 rounds, killing shooting suspect Jeffery Johnson, wounding nine other people.
Kelly told AP that the officers who responded to the scene had "a gun right in their face" and "responded quickly, and they responded appropriately."
"These officers, having looked at the tape myself, had absolutely no choice," he said.
Johnson, 58, allegedly shot and killed his former co-worker, Steven Ercolino, before being killed by police in a confrontation that sent bullets ricocheting onto the crowded sidewalk during morning rush hour Friday. Surveillance video from the scene shows Johnson pulling out a pistol and pointing it at officers. The officers then drew their weapons and fired 14 rounds.
Paul Browne, an NYPD spokesman, told NBC News that the bystanders hit with police bullets likely suffered graze wounds, mostly to the lower extremeties.
Robert Asika, who sells tickets for the Empire State Building's observatory, was shot in the right arm. He told AP he was "100 percent positive" that it was a police officer who had shot him. "When I woke up this morning, I didn't even want to go to work," he said. "Something told me not to go to work."
Eugene O'Donnell, a former New York City police officer and prosecutor, told CNN that the NYPD takes extreme care to not needlessly endanger innocent people and that a suspect must be a "clear and imminent danger to them or others" for the officers to consider firing.
"The officers had to take into account the risk of the gunman hurting potentially many people in the vicinity were he not stopped," said O'Donnell.
Six of the injured were treated and released on Friday, NBC News reports, while three were admitted to hospital for non-life threatening injuries.