Kerry Burke , John Annese and Elizabeth Keogh
New York Daily News
A man lugging two gasoline cans strode into historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Midtown on Wednesday — along with an accelerant and a couple of lighters — and was collared by two NYPD counter-terrorism officers, cop sources said.
At a news conference at the cathedral, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller said it was too soon to determine whether the suspect was trying to commit an act of terror, but his explanations to police weren’t consistent.
Miller said he parked his minivan on Fifth Ave., walked around the area for a while, returning to the minivan where he took out the two red gas cans, which held a total of four gallons of gasoline, along with a plastic bag containing two bottles of lighter fluid, and two extended butane lighters.
“As he enters the cathedral, he’s confronted by a cathedral security officer who asks him where he’s going, informs him he can’t proceed into the cathedral carrying these things,” Miller said. “At that point, some gasoline apparently is spilled onto the floor as he’s turned around.”
Two officers with the NYPD’s Critical Response Command caught up with him, stopping him as he walked down Fifth Ave. toward 50th St.
“His basic story was that he was cutting through the cathedral to get to Madison Avenue, that his car had run out of gas,” Miller said. “We took a look at the vehicle. It was not out of gas.”
Lamparello, who is known to law enforcement officials, was being questioned at the Midtown North precinct stationhouse.
“It’s hard exactly to say what his intentions were. 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,” Miller said.
Tourists were aghast at the possibility someone might want to burn the church.
“I think there’s so much hostility going on that people are becoming more and more sensitive. People are acting emotionally,” said Jennifer Henry, 34 visiting from California. “There’s more of a mental health issue going on in the United States right now.”
Jess Rath, 29, visiting from Florida, had a chilling realization.Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and @NYPDCT John Miller provides a preliminary update regarding tonight’s incident at St. Patrick’s Catherdal in #Manhattan. pic.twitter.com/SO2MwbSBIB— Chief Terence Monahan (@NYPDChiefofDept) April 18, 2019
“Maybe he saw the fire in France and thought he could do that himself,” Rath said, adding: “There’s just so much hate, so much anger. Thank God this person didn’t get further than what they did. It’s scary.”
Mike Aluzzo, 49, also from California, agreed.
“It’s an emotional response and it’s your side versus my side,” Aluzzo said. “People are fueled off hate and anger. It’s literally just hate-fueled.”
A heavy NYPD presence gathered at the cathedral as cops investigated Wednesday night. The cathedral, which was built in 1878, installed a sprinkler-like system during recent renovations and its wooden roof is coated with fire retardant.
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