Man sets fire to church, barricades himself inside and commits suicide

Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad and Arson Section detectives are investigating an incident during which a man set fire to a Center Moriches church, barricaded himself inside and committed suicide this afternoon.

A retired NYPD sergeant observed a man attempting to set a vehicle on fire in the parking lot of Saint John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, located at 25 Ocean Ave., and called 911 at approximately 1:30 p.m. Responding officers followed the man, John Beneventano, into the church and Benevento threw a gas can at officers and attempted to light them on fire. The officers retreated and were not injured. Beneventano then lit a match and started a fire inside the building.

Officers retreated from the church and a perimeter was established outside. Emergency Service Section Officers and the Hostage Negotiation Team attempted to make contact. It was later determined that Beneventano, 42, of Shirley, committed suicide. It appears that no one else was injured in the incident.

“Once again our officers put their lives on the line to protect the residents of Suffolk County. I want to thank all the members of the Department who responded so effectively today,” said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy D. Sini.

The investigation is continuing. Detectives are asking anyone with information on the incident to call the Homicide Squad at 631-852-6392.

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