Police confirmed they responded to St. John's Catholic Church in Center Moriches around 1:30 p.m., after an off-duty NYPD officer spotted the suspect, John Beneventano, 42, attempting to light a van on fire in the parking lot. Helicopter footage showed the van with a rag hanging out of the gas tank and a gas can on the ground.
Authorities say the Shirley man entered the church with what appeared to be a container and did not come back outside. Responding officers noticed incendiary devices including propane tanks around the front entrance of the building, and the suspect reportedly doused an officer with gasoline and threw a match.
That officer was not injured, but law enforcement backed out of the area and secured the location.
There was a large police presence at the church, including armored vehicles and officers with guns drawn.
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini confirmed just after 5 p.m. that the suspect had killed himself, and that there was no reason to believe anyone else was inside. But they emphasized that the scene was very active and that the building had to be carefully searched for possible explosive devices before the site could be deemed safe.
Main Street is closed between Railroad Avenue and Reeves Road due to the police investigation.
Our Lady Queen of Apostles School is across the street from the church, and the Diocese of Rockville Centre confirmed they were evacuated. The kids, in grades K-8, were taken to a nearby convent where parents picked them up.