A man was arrested last night in Midtown Manhattan after he tried to bring two gallon cans of gasoline, lighter fluid, and extended butane lighters into St. Patrick's Cathedral on Wednesday night.
Police say the man, whom the NY Post identified as a CUNY student named Marc Lamparello, claimed he was trying to bring gas to his car parked on Fifth Avenue. "His basic story was that he was cutting through the cathedral to get to Madison Avenue, that his car had run out of gas," Deputy NYPD Commissioner of Intelligence John Miller told reporters. "We took a look at the vehicle. It was not out of gas, and at that point he was taken into custody."
The incident unfolded just before 8 p.m. when Lamparello was stopped by a St. Patrick's Cathedral security guard. Some gasoline spilled on the floor, and Lamparello left. Then, according to Miller, the security guard alerted counterterrorism officers outside the church, who caught up with Lamparello on Fifth Avenue near 50th Street.
UPDATE: 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/bJDXrR6e8q
— NYPD Midtown North (@NYPDMTN) April 18, 2019
Police say his statements were "inconsistent and evasive," but he remained "cooperative" while talking to the officers.
The Post reports that Lamparello resides in New Jersey and is "seeking his Ph.D. in philosophy, and has done stints as an adjunct lecturer at Lehman College, a police source said... Lamparello is 'known to police,' according to Miller. He has two prior arrests in New Jersey for criminal trespass and public drunkenness, sources added."
"It’s hard exactly 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 four gallons of gasoline, two bottles of lighter fluid and lighters, is something that we would have great concern over," Miller said.
Fox 5 reports that Lamparello had purchased a one-way ticket from Newark to Rome leaving tonight.
In the wake of the fire that devastated Notre Dame in Paris, there has been heightened concern about the potential for arson in similar institutions. According to the Daily News, "The cathedral, which was built in 1878, installed a sprinkler-like system during recent renovations and its wooden roof is coated with fire retardant."