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Man with gas cans at St. Patrick's Cathedral faces attempted arson charges

Marc Lamparello carried cans of gas and lighter fluid into the church two days after Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral burned in an accidental fire, police said.

NYPD detectives walk Marc Lamparello, center, to a

NYPD detectives walk Marc Lamparello, center, to a waiting police car at the Midtown North precinct in Manhattan on Thursday. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

A New Jersey man who carried cans of gas and lighter fluid into St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan on Wednesday night will be charged with attempted arson, NYPD officials said.

Marc Lamparello, 37, was taken into custody just two days after Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral burned in an accidental fire. 

The suspect, an adjunct lecturer at CUNY, was taken into custody after an investigation by officers with the Counterterrorism Bureau, John Miller, NYPD deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism, said on Thursday. Lamparello, 37, faces charges of attempted arson, reckless endangerment and violations of city codes involving the transport of flammable materials in public places.

Lamparello's arrest was his second of the week. On Monday night he was arrested at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Newark, N.J., after he "refused to leave, resisted arrest (and) got into a physical altercation with two deputy sheriffs," Miller said. Additionally, Lamparello had booked a flight to Italy that was scheduled to leave Thursday evening, Miller said. 

Lamparello initially arrived in the area around St. Patrick's at approximately 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Miller said. At 7:55 p.m., he retrieved two gans of gasoline, two containers of lighter fluid and a bag containing lighters from his vehicle and entered St. Pat's.

“He’s confronted by a cathedral security officer who asks him where he’s going and informs him that he can’t proceed into the cathedral carrying these things,” Miller said Wednesday. “At that point, some gasoline has apparently spilled out onto the floor as he’s turned around.”

The church security officer then notified members of the NYPD counterterrorism bureau, which had officers stationed near the cathedral as part of a beefed-up protection after the blaze at Notre Dame.

Lamparello walked off, but when he was tracked down by the counterterrorism officers, he told them his minivan had run out of gas and he was cutting through the church to get to Madison Avenue, Miller said.

When police got to his vehicle nearby, they found it had not run out of fuel, so officers took the man into custody for questioning, police said. “His answers were inconsistent and evasive,” Miller said.

He was transported to the Midtown North Detective Squad, where he was questioned by detectives from the Intelligence Bureau and investigators from the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Miller said the NYPD does not consider the incident an attempted terror attack, despite the presence of Joint Terrorism Task Force members.

"I think the presence of our people in the Joint Terrorism Task Force is just indicative of our approach, which is when you have these indicators at this kind of location, you start the investigation to eliminate that question. There doesn't appear to be any connection to any terrorist group or any terrorist-related intent here," he said.

Miller praised the quick response, from church security to officers who had located the suspect.

“It’s hard to say what his intentions were,” Miller said of the New Jersey man. It’s “something we should have great concern over,” he said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio was briefed on the incident, said his spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein.

“Thank you @NYPDnews for the swift response tonight. We are all focused on keeping our congregations and houses of worship safe as they celebrate this Holy Week,” the mayor tweeted late Wednesday night.

With Matthew Chayes, Anthony M. DeStefano and Alison Fox

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