NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A college professor is facing charges for the scare at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Police say 37-year-old Marc Lamparello from New Jersey brought cans of gasoline. lighter fluid and lighters into the house of worship.
The alarming incident happened during Holy Week for Catholics around the world and just days after the devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
Lamparello wis charged with attempted arson, reckless endangerment, trespassing and some violations of city codes regarding transport of flammable materials in public places, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller announced Thursday.
Miller said that according to Essex County Sheriff’s Department, Lamparello was arrested Monday night for trespassing at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Newark. He allegedly refused to leave when it was closing and got into a physical altercation with responding deputy sheriffs. He was also previously arrested on drug related charges.
Lamparello was also poised to leave the country, authorities said.
“In the early morning hours of yesterday, before proceeding to New York City, he did book a flight to Italy for $2,800 that would have left at 5:20 this evening,” Miller said.
Asked whether it was a terrorism incident, Miller said “It does not appear that way.”
“There doesn’t appear to be any connection to any terrorist group or any terrorist-related intent here,” Miller said.
WEB EXTRA: NYPD Provides Update On St. Patrick’s Cathedral Scare
Lamparello said nothing as he was walked out of a Manhattan precinct.
Police say Lamparello arrived in the area Wednesday night at around 6:30 p.m. and circled the block. Just before 8 p.m., Lamparello pulled the gasoline, lighter fluid and lighters from the minivan on Fifth Avenue near the Cathedral and made his way inside with them.
He was approached by an usher who told him he couldn’t bring them into the cathedral, Miller said. When Lamparello put the items down, some gasoline spilled in the Foyer, according to Miller.
Security immediately alerted the NYPD, who stopped Lamparello when he went back out onto the street.
Lamparello told officers that his minivan ran out of gas, which is why he was carrying the gasoline. Miller said he was leading police away from his minivan when he told them that.
Police went to check the minivan and found out that wasn’t true.
A cab driver says he witnessed the incident.
“The red thing was on the ground and he was acting like he had no answer, ‘I don’t know where I am, what I’m doing here, I’m lost’ he was saying,” said cab driver Mahmood Wara.
Detectives say Lamparello has emotional issues. He was the music director at St. Joseph’s church in East Rutherford and worked at Seton Hall as an adjunct professor of philosophy. According to police, he was living in a New Jersey motel for the past few days.
CBS2 tried to speak with his father in Hasbrouk Heights, New Jersey, but he declined comment.
“They were church people, in the choir,” said neighbor Sal Altomare. “It’s very surprising that it happened.”
Given the timing, all the churchgoers DeAngelis spoke to told her they were thinking about the fire at Notre Dame in Paris.
“It seems like copycat. It’s troubling that people would want to do something like that to something so beautiful,” said Pam Mayet, who was visiting from Houma, Louisiana.
“Because it’s Holy Thursday it’s a bit scary, trying to worship as a Christian and knowing bad things can happen,” said Lori Hunt of Panama City Beach, Florida.
The cathedral reopened Thursday morning, with officers stationed outside. Police said there is always heightened security in the area, and they’ve added more this week in wake of the Notre Dame fire. While announcing fundraising efforts for Notre Dame, Timothy Cardinal Dolan spoke about church security.
“It works, and last night showed that. Our people were suspicious and walked the man out, immediately called the police, they apprehended him and now he’s secure,” Dolan said. “So the system works. Does that mean it’s failsafe? No, but that’s why we come to church, to pray for God’s protection.”
“We have internal security at every entrance here and anyone who comes in, all bags are checked,” said St. Patrick’s Cathedral Director of Building Operations Kevin Donohue.
The church was open during the time of the arrest and is operating normally Thursday.