Man caught walking into New York cathedral with full gas cans, lighters

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.

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St Patrick's Cathedral in NYC
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St Patrick's Cathedral in NYC
St. Patrick's Cathedral is seen from above in New York, Friday, Sept. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York is shown in this photo, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York is shown in this photo, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Ceremonial units and respective pipe bands for New York Police Department, New York Fire Department and Port Authority perform at the entrance to St. Patrick's Cathedral before the start of a memorial mass for New York Mets Hall of Famer Rusty Staub Wednesday, April 25, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Firefighters stand outside St. Patrick's Cathedral as they wait for the start of the funeral of firefighter Michael Davidson in New York, Tuesday, March 27, 2018. The New York City firefighter died early Friday battling a fierce blaze on a movie set after getting separated from his fellow firefighters in the thick smoke. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
An amazing design church in the middle of New York City. St. Patrick's Cathedral.
The Cathedral of St. Patrick is a decorated Neo-Gothic-style Roman Catholic cathedral church located in New York, NY
The Cathedral of St. Patrick is a decorated Neo-Gothic-style Roman Catholic cathedral church located in New York, NY
The Cathedral of St. Patrick is a decorated Neo-Gothic-style Roman Catholic cathedral church located in New York, NY
Close up of the front of St Patrick's cathedral New York with the detail of the front picked out at sunset.
St. Patrick cathedral, Manhattan, New York, USA
st patrick's cathedral
St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, with a skyscraper in the background
high angle view showing St. Patricks Cathedral in New York
The Cathedral of St. Patrick is a decorated Neo-Gothic-style Roman Catholic cathedral church located in New York, NY
St Patrick's Cathedral Manhattan New York
The Cathedral of St. Patrick is a decorated Neo-Gothic-style Roman Catholic cathedral church located in New York, NY
Atlas, Rockefella Centre, St Patrick's Cathedral, New York City, New York, America.
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"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." 

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