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 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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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 had been arrested Monday at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, New Jersey, after he refused to leave at closing time, Miller said.
Maria Margiotta, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Newark, declined to comment on the specifics of Monday’s arrest, citing the ongoing police investigation. Our “security is vigilant and ensures a safe environment for all those who visit,” she said.
Porter reported from Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey. Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner and writer Deepti Hajela contributed to this report.