NYPD St. Patrick's

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New Jersey Man Faces Attempted Arson, Other Charges In St. Patrick's Cathedral Incident

April 18, 2019 - 2:25 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Police say a New Jersey man with gasoline cans was arrested at St. Patrick's Cathedral just days after a fire devastated Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

The 37-year-old man was arrested Wednesday night while carrying four gallons of gasoline, two bottles of lighter fluid and butane lighters, the NYPD says. Marc Lamparello, of Hasbrouck Heights, has been charged with attempted arson, reckless endagerment and trespassing.

NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller says the man pulled up to the cathedral on Fifth Avenue, eventually entering the church with gasoline and lighter fluid. 

A security guard spotted the man with the red gas cans and told him to leave, while notifying the NYPD, who questioned him outside.

"His answers were inconsistent and evasive, although he remained conversational with them and cooperative," Miller said. 

"His basic story was that 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 had not run out of gas." 

Miller says the man was taken into custody after officers looked at the vehicle and found it was not out of gas.

"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.

Police later discovered that Lamparello had been arrested at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Newark on Monday night after refusing to leave and getting into a fight with two sheriff's deputies. Lamparello also had booked a one way ticket on a flight to Rome, WCBS 880's Rich Lamb reported.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan said Wednesday night's incident shows that the system in place is working well. 

"We've got a very well-trained interior security staff. We've got the constant help of the NYPD, who usually has an officer on the block for ready assistance. We've got the ready attention of the FDNY. So it works. And last night showed that," he said.

The cardinal conceded that the system isn't fail-safe, "but that's why we come to church to pray for God's protection."

The building manager for St. Patrick's, Kevin Donohue, said the cathedral has a robust internal security system that coordinates with the NYPD.

"We have internal security at every entrance here. Anyone who comes in -- all bags are checked. So you must open your bags. Obviously this gentleman walked in the door, he caught the eye right away, and he was confronted," Donahue said. 

Police said the suspect may be mentally disturbed and that he is known to authorities. 

St. Patrick's Cathedral was built in 1878 and has installed a sprinkler-like system during recent renovations. Its wooden roof is also coated with fire retardant.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report)