A man will be charged with attempted arson and reckless endangerment after he tried to enter St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on Wednesday night with gallons of gasoline, lighter fluid and lighters.
Police identified the suspect Thursday as Marc Lamparello, who was also arrested by the Essex County Sheriff’s Office last Monday in Newark, New Jersey, at Sacred Heart Cathedral after refusing to leave, NYPD’s John Miller said at a news conference.
Miller previously said that a security officer stopped a suspect Wednesday night, who then left the church and was subsequently detained by counterterrorism officers. The suspect spilled some of the gasoline as the security officer stopped him in the church and forced him to turn around, Miller said.
“It’s hard to say exactly 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 we would have great concern over,” Miller said.
The incident comes days after the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris burned in what officials say could be an accident related to renovation work.
Lamparello did not make any references to Notre Dame while speaking to investigators, authorities said Thursday.
The suspect had booked a flight to Italy that was set to leave Thursday evening, authorities said.
It’s unclear when he will be arraigned, Miller said.
Suspect was noticed immediately
Security officers are stationed at each entrance of St. Patrick’s and immediately noticed the man when he came through the main entrance, according to Kevin Donohue, director of building operations at the cathedral.
“This gentleman walked in the door, and he caught the eye right away, and he was confronted,” Donohue said.
Before entering the church, the man retrieved the items from a minivan he had parked near the church, Miller said. The NYPD swept that vehicle and did not find any additional materials.
The man initially told officers he was cutting through the cathedral to get to Madison Avenue and that his car had run out of gas, but Miller said when officers checked his car, it had gas.
“Upon questioning him, his explanation for being in the area wasn’t legit, and he was taken into custody,” Donohue said.
Authorities described the suspect as emotionally disturbed but said it’s too early to tell what his motive was or whether it’s connected to terrorism. Nobody was injured in the incident and police are investigating.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan said Wednesday night’s events showed that the system in place at the cathedral is effective.
“Our people were suspicious, walked the man out, immediately called the police department. They apprehended him, and now he’s secure. So the system works,” he said. “Does that mean it’s fail-safe? No, but that’s why we come to church: to pray for God’s protection.”
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which opened its doors in 1879, is a prominent landmark in the city.
In France, prosecutors investigating the causes of the Notre Dame inferno have interviewed construction workers and security staff as more details emerged about the effort to contain the blaze.
Security guards at the 850-year-old cathedral first heard the fire alarm at 6:20 p.m. local time on Monday, and evacuated the cathedral even though they didn’t see any sign of fire, a spokesman for the Paris Fire Brigade said.
The alarm sounded again some 20 minutes later, at which point the cathedral’s security officers noticed the fire.