A New Jersey man was taken into custody 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 was bogus, and that the incident happened just two days after the devastating inferno at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
“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.
Because the man was not immediately charged, police did not release his name. However, a family member identified him as Marc Lamparello, 37, of Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey.
His brother, Adam Lamparello, told The Daily Beast 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.”
Police said the incident unfolded just before 8 p.m. while visitors were inside the Neo-Gothic Manhattan cathedral, the seat of Catholic power in New York City.
Lamparello drove to the area in a minivan, unloaded the flammables and lighters, and headed up the church steps.
“As he enters the cathedral, he’s confronted by a cathedral security officer who asked him where he’s going and informs him he can’t proceed into the cathedral carrying these things,” Miller said. “At that point, some gasoline is apparently spilled out onto the floor as he’s turned around.”
As Lamparello left, the cathedral employee alerted two officers stationed outside, who followed him down the street and began to question him.
“His answers were inconsistent and evasive,” Miller said.
Lamparello claimed he was cutting through the church with a pair of two-gallon cans because his car was out of gas, but police inspected the vehicle and determined that was not the case, Miller said.
He was then taken to a police station for questioning. Miller said the suspect “is known to police” but did not provide further details.
“We don’t know what his mindset was, what his motive was,” Miller added.
He said that while there are always police stationed outside the historic cathedral, security has been increased since the apparently accidental blaze at Notre Dame.