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Man Apprehended After Entering St. Patrick’s Cathedral with Gas Cans and Lighter Fluid

By The Tablet Staff

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is seen on a sunny afternoon in New York City April 16. (Photo: Catholic News Service/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Nearly two days after the historic Notre Dame Cathedral caught on fire, a man carrying two gas cans, lighter fluid and lighters entered St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan April 17, but was stopped by a security officer and taken into custody, according to an NYPD official.

“Nothing happened inside the cathedral,” the Archdiocese of New York said in a statement.

The suspect in custody is Marc Lamparello of New Jersey. The 37-year-old Ph.D. philosophy student entered the Midtown church around 8 p.m. with the flammable material but was apprehended.

According to the archdiocese, the individual was stopped as he tried to come into the cathedral and was turned over to the police.

NYPD Response

“His answers were inconsistent and evasive, although he remained conversational with them and cooperative,” said NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller during a press conference outside St. Patrick’s April 17. “His basic story was he was cutting through the cathedral to get to Madison Ave. that his car had run out of gas.”

Authorities said after looking at Lamparello’s vehicle, they found it was not out of gas.

“I think if you add to that the events at the iconic location of the fire in Notre Dame this week and all the publicity around that,” Miller noted.

Cathedrals Around the U.S.

State-of-the-art fire prevention, detection and suppression techniques are imperative at cathedrals in the United States to prevent the devastation witnessed at Notre Dame as Holy Week began.

A fire extinguisher is seen at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City April 16. Cathedrals in the United States count on state-of-the-art fire prevention, detection and suppression techniques to prevent the devastation witnessed at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris April 15, 2019. Nonetheless, firefighters and cathedral staff remain vigilant. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Msgr. Robert T. Ritchie, rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, oversaw a recent, extensive restoration that included replacement of the traditional fire suppression system in the 140-year-old church. He told Catholic News Service one of his greatest fears during the project was that fire would break out. The rector said he prayed daily that the building and workers would be safe from fire.

“St. Patrick’s has some similarities to Notre Dame, with its attic of ancient logs,” he said. “Of course, ours are not 800 years old, but it’s still a concern, because it’s wood and it’s so dry.”

The rector said the New York City Fire Department conducts a major annual inspection of the cathedral. In addition, firefighters make three or four other visits each year to practice getting up into the attic and maneuvering there. Coincidentally, members of the fire department performed a practice drill April 15, the day of the Notre Dame fire.

He said the New York City Fire Department responded to a recent minor fire caused by an ember from a stick used to light a votive candle. Although the fire was put out quickly with a fire extinguisher, it tripped the alarm. Firefighters arrived and checked to make sure there were no lingering issues.


Contributing to this report was Catholic News Service.

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