Just days after the fire that almost completely destroyed Notre Dame, a man has been arrested after carrying gasoline, lighter fluid, and butane lighters into the New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Just two weeks before the Notre Dame fire, the second largest church in France also suffered a mysterious fire. These fires follow a string of fires across Europe at dozens of churches. Investigations have begun to determine if Notre Dame was arson.
After three fires at Louisiana churches recently, American church leaders and authorities are increasingly on their guard and the New York incident that happened Wednesday, April 18, 2019 gives many pause.
“Around 7:55 pm, a man walked into St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan with gas cans and lighter fluid, and was subsequently apprehended by @NYPDCT without incident,” the New York Police Department tweeted.
The 37-year-old man’s identity will be released once he is formally charged, authorities said. Senior law enforcement officials said he may be emotionally disturbed.
According to ABC News, the man allegedly parked his car in front of Saks Fifth Avenue and carried two canisters of gas, two bottles of lighter fluid, and two butane lighters into the cathedral.
Church ushers stopped the man before nearby officers with the NYPD Critical Response Command took him into custody.
NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller told reporters at a news conference that he gave “inconsistent and evasive” answers to police officers after being stopped.
“At that point, some gasoline apparently had spilled out onto the floor,” Miller said. “His basic story was that he was cutting through the cathedral to get to Madison Avenue, that his car had run out of gas…We took a look at the vehicle. It was not out of gas.”
NBC News reports that police are still working to determine a motive.
“It’s hard to say exactly what his intentions were,” Miller said,
“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,” he continued.
The incident comes just days after a fire engulfed and destroyed France’s iconic Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.
Police say the man in custody made no mention of the Notre Dame fire. Many point to the dozens of recent fires as evidence of terrorism against the Europe’s Christian community.