Updated: 11:03 AM ET, Thu April 18, 2019
A man was arrested after trying to enter the St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York during Wednesday night with gallons of gasoline, lighter fluid, and lighters, authorities claimed.
A security officer eventually stopped the 37-year-old man at the cathedral, the man then left the church but was detained shortly afterward by counterterrorism officers, NYPD’s John Miller mentioned at a news conference.
The man, who is also from New Jersey and is known by police, spilled out some of the gasoline as the security officer was trying to stop him in the church, forcing him to turn around, Miller said.
“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 we would have great concern over,” Miller said.
Security officers are stationed at each entrance and immediately noticed him when he walked through the main entrance of the Cathedral, according to Kevin Donohue, the director of building operations at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
“This gentleman walked in the door, and he caught the eye right away, and he was confronted,” Donohue mentioned.
The man retrieved the items from a parked minivan near the church before entering the church, Miller said. After arrested, the NYPD swept the entire vehicle and did not find any additional materials.
The man initially told authorities that he was cutting through the cathedral to get to Madison Avenue and that his van ran out of gas, but Miller said when officers checked his car, and it had gas.
“Upon questioning him, his explanation for being in the area wasn’t legit, and he was taken into custody,” Donohue said.
The man’s identity will not be revealed until he has been charged with a crime, Miller said.