New York – Marc Lamparello, 37, of Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey was arrested on Wednesday night after he tried to enter St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City carrying cans of gasoline, lighter fluid, and butane lighters, police said.
Police said they do not know the man’s “mindset” but noted that the excuse he gave for having the gas appeared fake. The incident happening just two days after the devastating inferno at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris added to the suspicious nature of his actions.
“It’s hard to say what his intentions were, but I think the totality of circumstances—of an individual walking into an iconic location like St. Patrick’s Cathedral, carrying over two gallons of gasoline, two bottles of lighter fluid, and lighters—is something that we would have great concern over,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner John Miller told reporters.
Larmparello’s brother, Adam Lamparello identified the man as Marc Lamparello. He stated he was stunned by news of the arrest.
“Oh my god. I’m shocked this could even be true. I’m almost speechless,” he said. “This is something that is so not him. I don’t know what to even say.”
Security officers are stationed at each entrance and noticed him when he came through the main entrance, according to Kevin Donohue, director of building operations at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
“This gentleman walked in the door, and he caught the eye right away, and he was confronted,” Donohue said. “Upon questioning him, his explanation for being in the area wasn’t legit, and he was taken into custody.”
When a security officer Donohue stopped Lamparello, he left the church and was detained shortly afterward by counterterrorism officers, NYPD’s John Miller said at a news conference. Lamparello is known to police with prior arrests. He spilled some of the gasoline as the security officer stopped him in the church and forced him to turn around.
“His basic story was he was cutting through the cathedral to get to Madison Avenue. That his car had run out of gas,” Miller said. “We took a look at the vehicle. It was not out of gas and at that point he was taken into custody.”
“His answers were inconsistent and evasive,” Miller said.
Authorities described him as emotionally disturbed. They continued to say it’s too early to tell if his actions were connected to terrorism. Nobody was injured in the incident. Police are continuing to investigate.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan said Wednesday night’s events showed that the security system in place is effective.
A prominent landmark in New York City, St. Patrick’s Cathedral was built in 1878. It has installed a sprinkler-like system during recent renovations. Its wooden roof is also coated with a fire retardant.