April 17 (Reuters) – A 37-year-old man was arrested on Wednesday night after walking into St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City with two full gasoline cans, lighter fluid and lighters, police said.
The man entered the Catholic cathedral in Midtown Manhattan just before 8 p.m. and was confronted by a security guard, a New York City Police Department (NYPD) official said.
As the man turned to leave, gasoline spilled onto the floor and the guard informed police stationed outside.
Officers caught up with the man and he was taken into custody after questioning, said John Miller, deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism for the NYPD.
“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 grave concern over,” Miller told reporters outside the cathedral.
Asked if “terrorism” was a motive in the incident, Miller said it was “too early to say that.”
Miller noted the incident came two days after the much-publicized fire in Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral.
“This is an indicator of something that would be very suspicious,” he said.
Three predominantly black churches in Louisiana were burned down between March 26 and April 4.
The man told police he was cutting through the cathedral to get to Madison Avenue from 5th Avenue and his mini van had run out of gasoline, Miller said.
When police checked the vehicle they found it was not out of fuel, at which point the man was arrested, he said.
“He is known to police and we are looking into his background,” he added. “We don’t know what his mindset was, what his motive was.”