NYPD arrested a man Wednesday night after he tried to enter St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan with two cans of gasoline – four gallons in total – two bottles lighter fluid, and two butane lighters. Church ushers noticed the fellow, later identified as 37-year-old Marc Lamparello of New Jersey, and when they turned him away, he spilled a little of the gas on the floor.
It had only been a couple of days since the tragic fire at Notre Dame, and while that is believed to have been caused by the renovation work being done at the time, the string of arson attacks against black churches in Louisiana serves as a stark reminder that, to some hateful people, nothing is sacred. The police were called, and counterterrorism officers caught up to Lamparello shortly afterward.
“His basic story was that he was cutting through the cathedral to get to Madison Avenue, that his car had run out of gas,” John Miller, NYPD’s deputy commissioner, explained. “We took a look at the vehicle, it was not out of gas and at that point he was taken into custody and brought to the Midtown North station house.”
Miller also said that it isn’t clear what the man – who was already known to the police – had planned or what he was thinking, but expressed the obvious reason for worry: “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.” However, this incident is not currently being called a terror attempt, and it’s unclear what charges, if any, Lamparello will face. They consider him an “emotionally disturbed person,” and are holding him for a psychiatric evaluation.
With two cans of gas, two bottles of lighter fluid, and two butane lighters, of course the police didn’t buy the man’s story – but it was sporting of them to check his vehicle anyway.
The church was closed Wednesday night and had a heavy police presence on into Thursday morning, but has since reopened.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral has stood since 1878. A recent renovation saw the addition of a sprinkler-like fire control system and flame-retardant coating for the wooden roof. Despite this, and the fact that authorities aren’t necessarily convinced Lamparello had arson on the brain, it is fortunate the guy was discovered and apprehended. The news this morning might have been a bit more somber, otherwise.