CENTER MORICHES, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Long Island man set fire to a Center Moriches church, barricaded himself inside and committed suicide Friday, Suffolk County police say.
The incident began at around 1:15 p.m. Friday afternoon at St. John the Evangelist church on Ocean Avenue.
Suffolk County Police Chief Timothy Sini said a retired NYPD sergeant saw the man, later identified as 42-year-old John Beneventano, of Shirley, trying to set a vehicle on fire in the church’s parking lot and called 911.
“We saw a gentleman with a gas can, he was pouring it all over the parking lot. And my wife said, ‘What is that guy doing over there?’ Seconds later, we saw a police officer pull in with a fire extinguisher and put it out,” one resident told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan. “While we sat here and watched, the gentleman who the police man was putting the fire out for took off and ran inside the building.”
Responding officers followed him inside the church, where he allegedly threw a gas can at the officers and tried to set them on fire, Sini said. The officers were not hurt.
Sini said Beneventano then lit a match and started a fire inside the church.
Police used a robot to open the door and search for explosive devices.
Hours later, Sini said the man had died inside.