Man tries to enter New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral with gas cans and lighter fluid two days after Notre Dame fire

The man, walked into the iconic St. Patrick's Cathedral carrying over four gallons of gasoline, two bottles of lighter fluid and lighters

NEW YORK: Just days after flames ravaged the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, a New Jersey man was arrested on Wednesday night after entering St. Patrick's Cathedral carrying two cans of gasoline, lighter fluid and butane lighters, according to the New York Police Department.

The unidentified 37-year-old man had pulled up in a minivan outside the landmark cathedral on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, walked around the area, then returned to his vehicle at 7.55 pm and retrieved the gasoline and lighter fluid, said NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller.

This Sept. 6, 2018, photo shows St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York. A New Jersey man has been arrested outside the cathedral with two jugs of gasoline. Police say church personnel stopped the 37-year-old man from entering the landmark cathedral in Manhattan at about 9 pm on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. Authorities were investigating whether the unidentified man is emotionally disturbed. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

"As he entered the cathedral, he was confronted by a cathedral security officer who asked him where he's going and informed him he can't proceed into the cathedral carrying these things," said Miller. "At that point some gasoline apparently spilt out onto the floor as he turned around."

Security then notified officers from the counter-terrorism bureau who were standing outside, Miller said. The officers caught up to the man and arrested him after he was questioned.

"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 said. "We took a look at the vehicle. It was not out of gas and at that point he was taken into custody."
"It's hard to say exactly 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," Miller said. "His story is not consistent."

In this Sept. 6, 2018, file photo, St. Patrick's Cathedral is seen in New York. Just days after flames ravaged the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, a New Jersey man was arrested Wednesday night, April 17, 2019, after entering St. Patrick's Cathedral carrying two cans of gasoline, lighter fluid and butane lighters, according to the New York Police Department. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Miller said the suspect is known to police, who are currently looking into his background.

St. Patrick's Cathedral was built in 1878 and has installed a sprinkler-like system during recent renovations. Its wooden roof is also coated with fire retardant.