A New Jersey man was taken into custody late Wednesday after he tried to walk into St. Patrick's Cathedral with two gasoline cans, two bottles of lighter fluid and two lighters, police said.
The 37-year-old man, identified by law enforcement sources as Marc Lamparello, parked a minivan on Fifth Avenue around 7:55 p.m. Wednesday, the NYPD's Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller said at a press conference.
After walking around the area, Lamparello returned to the minivan, where he pulled out two 2-gallon cans of gasoline, a plastic bag with two bottles of lighter fluid inside, and two extended lighters, Miller said.
Lamparello tried to walk into the cathedral with the items, but a security guard stopped him, according to Miller.
Some gasoline spilled out onto the floor of the cathedral as Lamparello was leaving, Miller said.
The guard notified two counterterrorism officers posted outside the cathedral about the incident as Lamparello tried to walk away.
When the officers caught up to the New Jersey resident and started questioning him, he gave them "inconsistent and evasive" answers as to why he'd been carrying the gas cans and other items.
"His basic story was that he was cutting through the cathedral to get to Madison Avenue. [He said] his car had run out of gas," Miller said.
When police searched Lamparello's vehicle, however, they discovered it wasn't out of gas. He was taken into custody soon after and hasn't yet been charged, according to Miller.
Miller said it was too early to say whether terror was being considered as a motive.
"It's hard 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," he said.
Heightened security at St. Patrick's is normal, but the NYPD has ramped up its efforts at the cathedral since the fire that tore through Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday, Miller noted.
Police initially said Lamparello may have been emotionally disturbed. Miller said he is "known to police."
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York confirmed that Lamparello was stopped as he tried to enter the cathedral.
"Nothing happened inside the cathedral," the spokesman said.