Man remains held for mental health evaluation following school threat

By Stephen Betts | Jun 05, 2018
Photo by: Stephen Betts Brandon Luzzi remains in a mental health setting after being taken into protective custody May 29. His home is located across the street from the South School and RSU 13 athletic fields.

Rockland — A 62-year-old Rockland man who said he was hearing voices telling him to shoot up a school remains in a mental health facility.

Brandon Luzzi has not been charged with a crime, but was taken into protective custody Tuesday, May 29, after telling both an out-of-state acquaintance and a police officer that he was hearing those voices.

Police seized eight guns -- including high-powered rifles and a flare gun -- and ammunition for the weapons from his Thomaston Street home across from the Regional School Unit 13 athletic fields and South Elementary School, which serves pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade classes.

Deputy Rockland Police Chief Christopher Young said Tuesday, June 5, that the man taken into custody remains in a mental health facility. He said police will be notified if the man is to be released. Police have not verbally identified Luzzi as the man taken into custody, but an affidavit filed by police in court names him.

A criminal charge could be filed upon his release, police said.

According to the police affidavit filed May 29 in the Knox County court to obtain a search warrant, Rockland police described the events of that day.

Police had received a telephone call from a woman who said that Luzzi had said he heard voices telling him to do a school shooting. The woman told police that Luzzi was a hunter and had access to guns.

The Rockland Police Department immediately sent officers and was assisted by Knox County Sheriff's Office deputies, who went to South School, Oceanside High School and the Mid-Coast School of Technology, all located in Rockland.

A lockout was ordered; students remained in their classrooms and visitors were not allowed inside the schools.

The affidavit states that Rockland Officer John Bagley went to Luzzi's residence and Luzzi admitted he was hearing the voices telling him to shoot up the school, but said that, "he is able to keep the voices at bay and is of no harm to anyone."

Luzzi acknowledged that he had at least one hunting rifle in his residence, according to the police report.

The Rockland man then attempted to enter his home and was taken into custody after a brief struggle, according to the affidavit.

Young said the department had prior contact with the man concerning a non-criminal matter and he could not give details. The department does not release information on people who are complainants.

Luzzi has not obtained a hunting license from Rockland, according to the city clerk.

Once Luzzi was in custody, the schools were notified and the lockout ended at 11:22 a.m. about a half-hour after police were notified of the potential threat.

Rockland Police Chief Bruce Boucher credited the training of officers in local departments with making the response work like clockwork. Rockport police assisted Rockland when Luzzi was taken to Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport for the mental health examination.

The potential charge listed on the affidavit was terrorizing. Luzzi has no criminal record in Maine. He purchased his home in March 2015.

The weapons seized were a Marlin model 60 semi-automatic rifle, an H&R 16-gauge shotgun, a Browning 0.30-06 rifle, a Savage 110CJ .270-caliber rifle, a Weatherly Mark 5 .30-06 rifle, a Remington 12-gauge shotgun, a Winchester model 94 rifle, an orange flare gun, and ammunition for all the firearms.

RSU 13 Superintendent John McDonald said last week that while the threat was directed at Rockland schools, he imposed the lockout on all RSU 13 schools as an added precaution. That would have included schools in Thomaston, Owls Head, South Thomaston and Cushing. The lockout began at about 10:45 a.m.

McDonald praised the rapid and thorough response of both Rockland police and the Sheriff's Office.

"These are troubling events and troubling circumstances," McDonald said May 29 after learning of the seizure of weapons and the man's comments.

The RSU 13 Board and Rockland City Council have voted to support the Rockland Police Department's seeking a grant to pay for an officer in the schools.

Boucher has said the earliest a school resource officer would be in the Rockland schools, if the city gets the grant, would be January 2019.

The superintendent and school administrators met May 30 with Rockland police andthe  Knox County Sheriff's Office about the response. He said it went as it should.

McDonald said June 4 that the board may hold a workshop at some point on school safety and whether additional steps need to be taken, but that there is no discussion planned for the board's Thursday, June 7, meeting.

He said last week there had been some concerns raised by parents about the timeliness of the notification of the lockout, but McDonald said his first priority when something like this occurs is to ensure the safety of students and staff and to communicate with schools and law enforcement.

He said once he knows everyone is safe, he will send out notices to parents.

The superintendent said if there is a desire to have officers in the schools before the city knows if it will receive a grant for the school resource officer program, that would have to be decided by the school board and City Council.

In a June 2 article in the Portland Press Herald, Luzzi’s mother, Chevala DeLorenze, said she spoke with her son by phone for about 20 minutes May 31. She said he sounded like himself, but he was doubtful the doctors there could help him.

She also briefly discussed the voices he was hearing. Luzzi told his mother that he believed the voices were coming from some foreign object or device inside his body. However, she said the conversation was otherwise like any other she has had with her son in the past, and that she did not detect anything unusual about his demeanor during the call.

“I think he honestly didn’t think anything was wrong with him mentally,” DeLorenze said. “Because he functioned as any of us do, he lived a very normal life. He certainly wasn’t mentally unfit, or isn’t. To talk to him, if you sit down and talk to him in a coffee shop, you’d have a normal conversation and think, 'Wow, this is a really good guy.’”

Luzzi did, however, acknowledge that hearing voices is a problem, according to his mother.

“I’m sure that he thinks – that he knows it is not normal for him to hear voices, but I’m not sure he thinks they can get to the bottom of that problem,” she said.

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