What to Know
- The man arrested with gas cans and lighters at St. Patrick's Cathedral had booked a flight to Italy earlier that morning, police say
- Marc Lamparello, 37, also had a run-in with NJ officers two days before; cops say he refused to leave a cathedral after it was closed
- Lamparello faces resisting arrest and other charges in the NJ case; he was charged with attempted arson and other crimes in the NYC one
The man taken into custody Wednesday night after allegedly trying to walk into St. Patrick's Cathedral, in the heart of New York City, with two gasoline cans and lighter fluid had booked a one-way $2,800 flight to Italy for Thursday, police said. He was also arrested days earlier at a New Jersey church, law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation tell News 4.
Marc Lamparello, 37, would've been out of the country by Thursday night, NYPD officials said in announcing formal charges against him. Police said he had purchased the ticket to Rome Wednesday morning, hours before they say he was found at St. Patrick's Cathedral with gallons of gas and lighting fluid.
Authorities are still looking into his possible intentions regarding St. Patrick's; he had told police his minivan, parked nearby, was out of gas but that allegedly wasn't the case -- and he was evasive when asked questions by police.
Investigators initially said Lamparello may have been emotionally disturbed. John Miller, the NYPD's deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism, described him as being "known to police."
Two days before the St. Patrick's incident, sources say Lamparello had a confrontation with police after refusing to leave the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, New Jersey. When an officer told him it was closed, Lamparello said, "If you want me to leave tonight, you're gonna have to handcuff me and arrest me tonight and take me to jail," law enforcement sources tell News 4. He still didn't leave.
Other officers arrived, at which point Lamparello threw himself onto a pew and yelled, "No!" then scuffled with police who tried to apprehend him, sources say.
As he was being taken out of the cathedral, Lamparello told police he wasn't leaving. "God wants me to be here. I know all the sins the priests have committed," he said, according to law enforcement sources.
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Eventually he was handcuffed and taken to police headquarters to be booked on charges of defiant trespassing, obstruction and resisting arrest.
Officials say they called in EMS to do an evaluation because Lamparello wasn't exhibiting rational behavior at the time; they found nothing wrong with him. Then the man's mother showed up, said he had an apartment in Manhattan and said she was taking him to her home in Hasbrouck Heights. The van allegedly involved in the St. Patrick's case was parked outside the New Jersey cathedral, but it was never searched because investigators had no reason to do so.
Lamparello now faces charges of attempted arson, reckless endangerment, and trespassing in the St. Patrick's incident in addition to the New Jersey charges. It wasn't clear if he had an attorney. He has no prior criminal history of note.
No one was hurt in either case, but some gasoline did spill on the floor of St. Patrick's as Lamparello was leaving; he had been stopped by a security guard.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan on Thursday said the incident "in a way, as scary as it is, shows that our security is working."
"Now, I hope [Lamparello] is getting mental care, because I think he's emotionally disturbed," 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.
Lamparello, who published a book and teaches at Seton Hall, according to police, is a PhD student at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York. As part of that PhD program, students are required to teach on other CUNY campuses. Lamparello taught one course at Brooklyn College, the school said, but was never employed there. He did, however, work at Lehman College, a spokeswoman said.
In a statement Thursday, Lehman College spokesperson, Sarah Ramsey said the institution was aware of the arrest and taking action to terminate Lamparello.
“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,” she said.
Lamparello had a separate incident in Hasbrouck Heights in December in which he went to police to say he thought he was being stalked by someone while at work and school in New York. He also said he had seen a Hasbrouck Heights police vehicle outside of his New Jersey home in late November and was jarred when it left moments later. Police told him the cruiser had nothing to do with any police business, and he left, apparently comfortable with the explanation, according to the incident report.