New York City: Marc Lamparello has been identified as the 37-year-old man who was arrested by NYPD Counterterrorism officers after walking into the historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City with two gasoline cans just days after a fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Lamparello was taken into custody without incident at the seat of the Catholic Archdiocese of New York in midtown Manhattan Wednesday night, NBC New York reports.
Lamparello is a Boston College-educated philosophy professor who has been involved in the Catholic Church in the past. According to a bio for a recently published book he wrote, “A native of New Jersey, Marc Lamparello studied philosophy at Boston College, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 2004. Marc has been heavily engaged in the study of philosophy from an early age, and is currently working on two other book-length projects, including a witty dialogue on arguments for and against the existence of God, and a series of essays on the epistemology of practical motivation.”
No one was injured and there was no damage to the Neo-Gothic-style cathedral, which has stood as a symbol of the Roman Catholic Church in the heart of Manhattan since 1879. The incident comes two days after a tragic fire caused massive damage to the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. The cause of the Paris fire remains under investigation, but authorities believe it was accidental and possibly connected to ongoing renovation work at the cathedral.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is located on Fifth Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets across the street from Rockefeller Center in one of the busiest areas of Manhattan. According to police, the incident occurred about 7:55 p.m. A heavy police presence remained at the cathedral as an investigation took place Wednesday night. The church was open and people were inside at the time of the incident.
Police said they do not know the man’s “mindset” but noted that the excuse he gave for having the gas was bogus, and that the incident happened just two days after the devastating inferno at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
“It’s too early to say that. It’s hard to say what exactly his intentions were,” Deputy Commissioner John Miller said at a briefing when asked if the incident was believed to be terrorism. “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 that we would have great concern over. His story is not consistent. So he is in conversation with detectives right now. I think if you add to that the events in the iconic location, the fire of Notre Dame this week and all the publicity around that.” Miller said Lamparello did not mention the Notre Dame fire during his initial interaction with officers.
His brother, Adam Lamparello, told reporters he was stunned by news of the arrest.
“Oh my god. I’m shocked this could even be true. I’m almost speechless,” he said. “This is something that is so not him. I don’t know what to even say.”
Police said the incident unfolded just before 8 p.m. while visitors were inside the Neo-Gothic Manhattan cathedral, the seat of Catholic power in New York City.
Lamparello drove to the area in a minivan, unloaded the flammables and lighters, and headed up the church steps.
“As he enters the cathedral, he’s confronted by a cathedral security officer who asked him where he’s going and informs him he can’t proceed into the cathedral carrying these things,” Miller said. “At that point, some gasoline is apparently spilled out onto the floor as he’s turned around.”
As Lamparello left, the cathedral employee alerted two officers stationed outside, who followed him down the street and began to question him.
“His answers were inconsistent and evasive,” Miller said.
Lamparello claimed he was cutting through the church with a pair of two-gallon cans because his car was out of gas, but police inspected the vehicle and determined that was not the case, Miller said.