(NEW YORK) — Hours after Pope Francis left New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport for Philadelphia, a man armed with a knife breached security hoping to “give the pope his business card,” prosecutors said Monday.
Chris Cannella, 39, a retired New York City firefighter, was driving a black Chevy Tahoe — similar to Secret Service cars — and pretending to be part of a VIP motorcade when he made it onto the tarmac Saturday night, according to court records.
The pope had flown out of JFK that morning and was already in Philadelphia by the time the incident unfolded.
A guard said that Cannella drove up directly behind a motorcade around 6 p.m. and “flashed something silver that looked like a police badge and then drove past the guard post,” according to court records.
Then, around 7:30 p.m., a police officer saw Cannella drive behind another VIP motorcade, carrying Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
When the officer asked him why he was following the motorcade, Cannella showed him a retired FDNY badge and said the Secret Service allowed him in before, but he couldn’t name the agent.
That’s when he was stopped and arrested.
Cannella told police he went through the check point “because he was trying to give the pope his business card” and also wanted to “talk to world leaders to effectuate change,” prosecutors said.
He had a knife more than four inches long, according to Port Authority police. Authorities also recovered a 9 mm magazine containing five hollow point rounds, as well as marijuana from Cannella’s car.
Cannella was arraigned Monday on charges including criminal impersonation and trespassing.
It was unclear if Cannella had an attorney and it was unclear if he entered a plea. His bail was set at $500,000 and his next court date is Oct. 15.
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