A man is in custody after he attempted to bring containers of gasoline into St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City Wednesday night.
The man was identified by NYPD as Marc Lamparello, a Ph.D. student at City University of New York. He has been arrested previously for criminal trespass and public drunkenness.
Lamparello was apprehended by cathedral security around 8 p.m. and taken into police custody by officers with the NYPD Critical Response Command. He attempted to start a fire using a lighter, and police said he had a car nearby to escape the scene.
According to the NYPD, Lamparello had four gallons of gasoline, two cans of lighter fluid, and two lighters with him when he attempted to enter the cathedral. He was prevented from entering by cathedral security, but was able to spill some of the gasoline on the floor as he was leaving.
About 90 minutes before he attempted to enter the cathedral, Lamparello pulled up to the church in a minivan. He then wandered around for about an hour, before taking the gasoline, lighter fluid, and lighters out of his car. He tried to go into St. Patrick’s around 8 p.m. and was apprehended shortly thereafter.
NYPD said that Lamparello’s story was “not consistent” and suspicious, though they have not yet determined any sort of motive. He claimed he cut through the cathedral as a shortcut, as his van had run out of gas. The minivan had in fact not run out of gas, which led to police taking him into custody. Lamparello was reportedly cooperative and conversational with police.
NYPD have confirmed that Lamparello had recently purchased a one-way airplane ticket to Rome, scheduled to depart Thursday evening.
Police do not suspect terrorism, and have described Laparello as “emotionally disturbed.”
Lamparello was recently arrested for refusing to leave a church in Newark as it was closing. He was charged with criminal trespassing and resisting arrest in that incident.
Lamparello graduated from Boston College, a Jesuit school, in 2004. Since then, he has been a philosophy instructor at several universities, including Seton Hall University in New Jersey. Seton Hall is a diocesean Catholic school administered by the Archdiocese of Newark. He previously worked as a music director for a Catholic parish in New Jersey.
His brother, Adam Lamparello, told the Daily Beast that he was “shocked” to hear of his arrest, and said that “this is something that is so not him.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio praised NYPD for their quick action in apprehending the suspect.
“We are all focused on keeping our congregations and houses of worship safe as they celebrate this Holy Week,” tweeted de Blasio.
The last scheduled Mass for Wednesday was celebrated at 5:30 p.m., per the cathedral’s website.
A spokesperson from the Archdiocese of New York told CNA that “the individual was stopped as he tried to come into the cathedral” before he was turned over to the police.
On Tuesday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York City expressed concern for the safety of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which, like Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, also has a wooden roof.
“I thought of St. Patrick’s. I said, ‘Oh my Lord, are we safe?’” said Dolan of the Paris fire.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral recently underwent a $177 million restoration project, which included new fire safety features.
“Thank God the FDNY has been extraordinarily vigilant and helpful, because we’ve got a wooden roof too,” said Dolan.