Suspect arrested at cathedral

NEW YORK — 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. Asked if Lamparello indicated what he planned to do in Rome, Miller said, “I’m not going to get into that right now.”

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.

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 — and hours after footage of Notre Dame burning was shown around the world — 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.

COMMENTS