A man who may or may not have been inspired by the destructive fire that desecrated Notre Dame earlier this week has been arrested after trying to enter St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan with two gasoline cans on Wednesday night.
According to ABC News, the 37-year-old man from New Jersey allegedly parked his vehicle in front of Saks Fifth Avenue where he carried two gas cans and lighter fluid into the cathedral.
“Church ushers stopped the man and nearby officers with the NYPD Critical Response Command took him into custody,” reports ABC. “No one was injured. The man is, for the moment, being considered an emotionally disturbed person.”
No criminal charges have been brought against the man, who will now be taken in for a psychiatric evaluation.
According to NBC News, NYPD Deputy Commissioner John Miller told reporters that gasoline had spilled on the floor of the cathedral when security confronted the 37-year-old man, leading him to make the wild claim he had run out of gas.
“As he enters the cathedral, he is confronted by a cathedral security officer who asked him where he’s going, informs him he can’t proceed into the cathedral carrying these things,” Miller said. “At that point some gasoline apparently had spilled out onto the floor.”
“His basic story was that he was cutting through the cathedral to get to Madison Avenue, that his car had run out of gas,” Miller continued. “We took a look at the vehicle, it was not out of gas and at that point he was taken into custody and brought to the Midtown North station house.”
Miller said police will investigate further before any conclusive determinations could be made.
“It’s hard to say exactly what his intentions were,” Miller said. “We are looking into his background, obviously, and talking to a couple of other agencies.”
Miller added that the FBI’s joint terrorism task force is involved “because we don’t know exactly what his mind-set was, what his motive was.”
“But we do know that carrying two cans of gasoline and the equipment to light that, to a public area and a place like St. Patrick’s Cathedral is something that presents a danger to the public, and that’s why he’s in custody,” Miller said.
Built in 1878 largely by Irish immigrants, the iconic mid-town cathedral has been hailed as one of the finest churches on American soil and one of New York City’s architectural gems. The NYPD maintains a regular presence there specifically because the church has a history of being targeted by terrorists.
In 1914, a bomb exploded on the northwest corner of the cathedral; police at the time suspected that the communist group Industrial Workers of the world had carried out the act of violence, though no arrests were made that day.
In 1915, Italian anarchists Frank Abarno and Carmine Carbone were arrested for trying to detonate a bomb inside the cathedral.