A New Jersey man was arrested after attempting to enter St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan with two gasoline cans last night. Investigators say he was also arrested at a church in New Jersey Monday night - and had booked a one-way ticket to Rome, according to police.
Authorities say church ushers stopped 37-year-old Marc Lamparello around 8 p.m. and notified nearby officers with the NYPD Critical Response Command, who took him into custody.
No one was injured.
Authorities say the Hasbrouck Heights, NJ man drove to St. Patrick's, parked in front of Saks and took two gas cans and lighter fluid from the car into the cathedral, where he was stopped.
"A guy was standing there with two gallons of gas, and somebody was talking to him," a taxi driver who witnessed the incident said. "He looked like a security guard or police officer. He said, 'I need gas for my car.' (The officer) said, 'Where's your car?' He said, "I don't know where I left my car.'"
"His basic story was that he was cutting through the cathedral to get to Madison Avenue, that his car had run out of gas," NYPD Deputy Commissioner John Miller said. "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 said that Lamparello is known to police. In fact, authorities say that he had been arrested on Monday after refusing to leave Sacred Heart Cathedral in Newark.
Lamparello was sitting in the cathedral for about an hour Monday, and then refused to leave when the church was closing.
When Essex County Sheriffs Officers asked him to leave, he told them he still wanted to pray.
When they tried to remove him, he told them they would have to arrest him.
Lamparello was charged with resisting arrest, trespass and disorderly conduct in that incident.
Law enforcement then discovered that Lamparello had a one-way plane ticket booked for Thursday night from Newark Airport to Rome.
Several law enforcement agencies are now looking into his background and intentions. A neighbor told said Lamparello lives in the basement of his parents' house and that the family is very religious.
The St. Patrick's incident came just two days after the fire at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.
There was a heavy police presence early Thursday morning outside the cathedral on Fifth Avenue.
"I've come to trust what we've got at St. Patrick's Cathedral, not that we can ever take it for granted," Timothy Cardinal Dolan said. "Last night proves that it works. We've got a very well trained interior security staff, we've got the constant help of the NYPD, which usually has an officer on the block for ready assistance, we've got the ready attention of the FDNY."
Dolan added, "Does that mean its fail safe? No, but that's why we come to church to pray for Gods protection."
St. Patrick's Cathedral, built in 1878, has installed a sprinkler-like system during recent renovations and its wooden roof is coated with fire retardant.