A 37-year-old man from New Jersey was detained by police as he tried to enter St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on Wednesday night with two containers of gasoline, lighter fluid and butane lighters.
The man, identified as Marc Lamparello, is a Boston College-educated philosophy professor who has been involved in the Catholic Church in the past, writes the Washington Post.
Earlier tonight, a man was arrested after walking into St. Patrick's Cathedral with 2 gasoline cans and lighter fluid.— Justin Brannan (@JustinBrannan) April 18, 2019
Out of an abundance of caution, I have asked the @NYPD68Pct and @NYPD62Pct to increase their presence around local churches and all houses of worship tomorrow.
He was taken into custody after a cathedral security guard stopped him from entering the church, New York Police Department Deputy Commissioner John Miller said at a news conference on Wednesday.
There were no injuries or damage as a result of the incident, police sources told The Washington Post.
Around 7:55pm, a man walked into St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan with gas cans and lighter fluid, and was subsequently apprehended by @NYPDCT without incident. We thank our partners for their help, and remember — if you see something, say something. pic.twitter.com/qEbmklnqzQ— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) April 18, 2019
“It’s hard to say exactly what his intentions were, but I think the totality of the circumstances of an individual walking into an iconic location like St. Patrick’s Cathedral carrying over four gallons of gasoline, two bottles of lighter fluid and lighters is something we would have great concern over,” Miller told reporters.
Around 7:55 p.m. local time, Miller said Lamparello returned to a minivan he had parked on Fifth Avenue, where the cathedral is located, and took out the gasoline containers and the “equipment to light it.” Immediately after he entered the church, he was confronted by a security guard, who informed him that he was not allowed inside as he was carrying the gasoline and lighters, Miller said.
Miller added “some gasoline apparently spilled onto the floor” as the man was leaving, but according to reports by the local CBS affiliate, the Archdiocese of New York confirmed that “nothing happened” in the cathedral.
NYPD officers subsequently followed the man and questioned him, Miller said.
“His answers were inconsistent and evasive, although he remained cooperative,” he added.
According to the man’s story, his car had run out of gas, so he was going to take a short cut through the cathedral, Miller said. But when police checked on his vehicle, it had plenty of fuel left in the tank.
Several hours after the man was taken into custody, New York City councilman Justin Brannan asked the NYPD “to increase their presence around local churches and all houses of worship tomorrow.”
First opened in 1879, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a prominent New York landmark. On Tuesday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said the Notre Dame fire left him worried about St. Patrick’s, which is also a historic structure with a recently repaired wooden roof.
This incident comes just two days after a devastating fire broke out at the iconic Gothic cathedral located in the heart of the French capital, causing the collapse of the cathedral's spire and two-thirds of its roof. The cause of the Paris blaze remains unclear but may have been linked to renovation work.