Police: NYC cathedral suspect had booked a flight to Italy

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A college philosophy teacher arrested after entering St. Patrick’s Cathedral carrying two cans of gasoline, lighter fluid and butane lighters had also been arrested at a New Jersey cathedral this week and had booked a Thursday flight to Rome, the New York Police Department said.

Marc Lamparello, 37, is facing charges including attempted arson and reckless endangerment after his arrest Wednesday night at the New York City landmark, said John Miller, the New York Police Department’s deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism.

It happened just days after Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was ravaged by a fire that investigators said Thursday was most likely electrical. Miller would not discuss anything Lamparello told investigators after his arrest but stressed that there “doesn’t appear to be any connection to any terrorist group or any terrorist-related intent here.”

Before going to St. Patrick’s on Wednesday, Miller said, Lamparello booked a $2,800 ticket on a 5:20 p.m. Thursday flight to Italy. He didn’t speculate on Lamparello’s motivations for planning the trip.

Lamparello remained in police custody Thursday and had not been arraigned.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Lamparello had a lawyer who could speak for him. A man leaving his parents’ house Thursday in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, close to New York City, had no comment for a reporter when asked about Lamparello.

A New Jersey man was arrested Wednesday night after entering St. Patrick’s Cathedral carrying two cans of gasoline, lighter fluid and butane lighters, according to the New York Police Department. (April 18)
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Lamparello “wasn’t weird,” said a neighbor, Salvatore Altomare, adding that he “seemed like … a nice guy, walked a straight line.”

Altomare described the family as “very good people. … They’re real Americans — try to do the right thing.”

Two nights before his arrest in New York, police in Newark arrested Lamparello after he wouldn’t leave the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart at closing time after a late Mass. Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura said Thursday that Lamparello was calm and respectful to the officers but was adamant about not leaving.

“He said, ‘This is a house of god, it should be open, I’m not leaving. You’ll have to lock me up,’” Fontoura said.

After he was charged with three minor offenses including defiant trespass, emergency medical services personnel examined Lamparello and determined he wasn’t a threat. Lamparello’s mother arrived and the two drove back to Hasbrouck Heights in his van, according to Fontoura.

“There was no reason to check the van at that point,” he said.

Lamparello is a philosophy instructor who has taught at New York City’s Lehman and Brooklyn colleges and Seton Hall University in New Jersey. Lehman’s website listed him as a Ph.D. candidate at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center.

In a statement, Lehman College spokesperson Sarah Ramsey said, “We are aware that an individual was arrested last night after an incident at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The individual was hired at Lehman College during this academic year, and was a part-time, online instructor this semester. We are taking the appropriate steps to terminate the individual’s employment with the college.”

A page on Amazon.com describes Lamparello’s 2016 book, “Reason and Counterpoint,” as offering “ambitious and highly creative answers to some of the most vexing philosophical questions, while also using skepticism to question some of the most basic assumptions at the heart of philosophical method and inquiry.”

Miller said surveillance camera footage showed Lamparello circling St. Patrick’s several times in a minivan well over an hour before he parked outside the cathedral on Fifth Avenue, walked around the area, returned to his vehicle, and retrieved the gasoline and lighter fluid.

When he entered the church, he was confronted by a security officer, who notified counterterrorism officers standing outside. Lamparello told the officers his car was out of gas and headed in a direction away from where he was parked, Miller said.

Officers found his vehicle and determined it was not out of gas, Miller said.

Update: 


A New Jersey man was arrested after entering St. Patrick’s Cathedral carrying two cans of gasoline, lighter fluid and butane lighters, the New York Police Department said, just days after flames ravaged the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

The unidentified 37-year-old man had pulled up Wednesday night in a minivan outside the landmark cathedral on Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan, walked around the area, then returned to his vehicle at 7:55 p.m. and retrieved the gasoline and lighter fluid, said NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller.

“As he enters the cathedral he’s confronted by a cathedral security officer who asks him where he’s going and informs him he can’t proceed into the cathedral carrying these things,” said Miller. “At that point some gasoline apparently spills out onto the floor as he’s turned around.”

Security then notified officers from the counter-terrorism bureau who were standing outside, Miller said. The officers caught up to the man and arrested him after he was questioned.

“His basic story was 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 and at that point he was taken into custody.”

“It’s hard to say exactly 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. “His story is not consistent.”

Miller said the suspect is known to police, who are currently looking into his background.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral was built in 1878 and has installed a sprinkler-like system during recent renovations. Its wooden roof is also coated with fire retardant.

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