Retired firefighter with knife pretended to be part of motorcade at JFK to give pope his business card, police say

ByMike Waterhouse WABC logo
Monday, September 28, 2015
A Secret Service Agent wipes-down a motorcade vehicle as he waits for Pope Francis departure from the Apostolic Nunciature, the Vatican's diplomatic mission in Washington.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A retired firefighter armed with a knife pretended to be part of multiple motorcades in an attempt to give something to the pope Saturday at a New York City airport, police said.

The only problem in his plan - Pope Francis had taken off for Philadelphia about 11 hours earlier.

Court documents said Chris Canella drove a black Chevy Tahoe - similar to what the Secret Service uses to transport VIPs - and tried to piggyback his way onto the tarmac at JFK International Airport.

The first incident happened at about 6 p.m. Saturday. Canella allegedly followed a motorcade through guard post "S." Surveillance video shows his vehicle slowing down at the checkpoint and Canella flashing "something silver that looked like a police badge," court records stated.

Later, at about 7:30 p.m., police said Canella tried to follow a different motorcade - carrying Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi - through guard post "V."

The tail car in the security detail notified the guard at the booth that the vehicle behind him was not part to of the motorcade, and activated a security barrier that prevented Canella from entering.

Canella gave the guard his driver's license and a retired FDNY badge, police said. He said that the Secret Service allowed him through previously, but could not name any agent who had authorized him to be there.

Port Authority police recovered a 9mm magazine containing five hollow-point bullets from his trunk, as well as a knife that was at least four inches long and some marijuana.

While in police custody, Canella told officers that he was trying to give the pope his business car and that "he wants to talk to the world leaders to effectuate change."

Canella is facing a long list of charges, including criminal impersonation, criminal mischief and unauthorized possession of ammunition.