ROCKLAND — Local police said they could file a criminal charge in the coming days against a man who told them that he “had voices in his head telling him to do a school shooting but he is able to keep the voices at bay.”
Brandon Luzzi, 62, had seven firearms and a flare gun in his house across the street from South Elementary School when he told a friend about the voices, according to a police affidavit. The friend then called police Tuesday morning, triggering a districtwide lockdown of the school campuses.
Although Rockland Police Chief Bruce Boucher declined to confirm Luzzi’s name, an affidavit filed in support of a search warrant request identified Luzzi. Boucher said he is collaborating with the district attorney to determine whether there should be charges in the case.
The search warrant affidavit cited criminal terrorizing as a possible charge. Under state law, it is a Class C felony punishable by up to a year in prison to communicate a threat that causes a building to be locked down – a provision of the statute designed precisely for such incidents, Boucher said.
Luzzi has no criminal history in Maine, and his family says he has lived a productive, peaceful life as a tugboat captain. He is being held at Pen Bay Medical Center and will undergo a psychological evaluation.
By law, authorities can hold him for up to 72 hours without taking additional steps to prove why he should be held longer, Boucher said.
The affidavit, filed Tuesday in Knox County in support of the warrant to search Luzzi’s home, said Rockland police talked to Luzzi in his front yard after sending police to all the local schools, which were placed in lockout mode, meaning students stay in their classrooms and visitors are not allowed inside.
Luzzi told officers about the voices, and said he had at least one hunting rifle in the house, the affidavit says. He tried to go back into his house and was taken into custody “after a brief struggle.”
The incident came amid heightened tensions after a string of deadly school shootings and threats nationwide. In one of the most recent incidents, a 17-year-old student armed with a shotgun and a pistol killed 10 people and wounded 10 others in Santa Fe, Texas, on May 18 before surrendering to the officers who confronted him.
‘ABLE TO KEEP THE VOICES AT BAY’
In Maine, there have been many school lockdowns and threats reported in recent years, but no shootings. In February, in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, a wave of school threats closed several schools in southern Maine while officers investigated. Each time police found the threats were unfounded.
In Rockland, police said they were tipped off to Luzzi after getting a phone call from a friend of Luzzi’s who said he told her he heard voices telling him to do a school shooting. The woman told police that Luzzi was a hunter and had access to guns.
Rockland police and Knox County Sheriff’s Office deputies were immediately dispatched to South School, Oceanside High School and the Mid-Coast School of Technology, all located in Rockland. Once they were stationed at the schools, Rockland Officer John Bagley went to talk to Luzzi at his home, the affidavit said. Luzzi told him about the voices, but said “he is able to keep the voices at bay and is of no harm to anyone.”
Once Luzzi was in custody, the schools were notified and the lockouts ended at 11:22 a.m., less than an hour after police were notified of the potential threat.
Police said they seized seven firearms and a flare gun from Brandon Luzzi’s house, and the search warrant affidavit cited criminal terrorizing as a possible charge. The incident in Rockland came amid heightened tensions after a string of deadly school shootings and threats nationwide.
SHIP CAPTAIN, RAISED AS A HUNTER
A judge granted the police request for a warrant to search Luzzi’s home, and officers seized the weapons and the ammunition for them. Luzzi does not have a hunting license from Rockland, the city clerk said.
Police seized 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.
Luzzi’s mother, Chevala DeLorenze, of Old Lyme, Connecticut, said her son is a Maine Maritime Academy graduate who has worked as a ship’s captain and pilot for many years.
“He’s been on the water his entire life and has a great reputation as a captain and had always gotten along very well with all of his crew,” DeLorenze said.
Luzzi was raised a hunter, she said, and inherited firearms from her father when he died. She did not specify which guns were passed on.
“It was a logical thing to pass them on to the next generation,” she said.
DeLorenze had never heard of her son experiencing any mental health problems.
“I have to tell you that I’m in a state of shock,” she said.
Luzzi has adult children, but has been divorced and single for years, DeLorenze said.
“When you’re out to sea for anywhere from two weeks to three weeks to a month, it’s probably not the best thing for a marriage,” she said.
DeLorenze said her son is an avid gardener, and rows of freshly tilled earth were visible in the long, narrow backyard behind the home he purchased in March 2015.
Neighbors near the home said he planted vegetables and shared his harvest with others.
“He loves to plant,” Luzzi’s mother said. “Before he moved up there and he lived in Connecticut, he did hoop house planting, even in the winter. He’s a man of soil.”
FAMILY HOPING TO HELP LUZZI
DeLorenze’s boyfriend, Don Super, who has known Luzzi for three years, said he also was shocked by the police involvement and alleged threatening statements.
“He’ll come here for holidays and we’d go out to dinner, and he came down here with a piece of equipment and roto-tilled my yard,” Super said. “Nothing like this. This is strange.”
A LinkedIn profile page says Luzzi is a 1980 graduate of Maine Maritime Academy and has worked as a captain and mate for several companies out of Boston and New York in the past dozen years, including work transporting military cargo for Haitian earthquake relief efforts.
The family was not contacted by any Maine officials and is trying to figure out how to help Luzzi, Super said.
“We called the police department there and they don’t have any record of him being there,” Super said. “That’s what’s confusing about this.”
RSU 13 Superintendent John McDonald said that although the threat was directed at Rockland schools, he imposed the lockout on all RSU 13 schools as a precaution. That 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 Tuesday afternoon after learning of the seizure of weapons and the man’s comments.
School attendance was normal Wednesday, although some parents raised concerns about how they were notified about the lockout. McDonald said he explained that the first priority is student safety and communicating with school and police officials, and that once everyone is safe, he sends out notices to parents.
McDonald said school and police officials met Wednesday and agreed the response went as it should.
The district does not have officers posted at the schools as school resource officers, but the board and City Council have voted to support the police department’s effort to get a grant to pay for that position. If they get the grant, the earliest an officer would be in the schools is January 2019. On Wednesday, officials said they were discussing whether to ask the school board and City Council to consider local funding to pay for an officer before then.
Police say Brandon Luzzi, who lives across Thomaston Street from South Elementary School in Rockland, had multiple guns in his house when he told a friend about voices telling him to “do a school shooting.” (Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald)
Brandon Luzzi’s family said he has lived a productive, peaceful life as a tug boat captain. Photo from LinkedIn