The home of Brandon Luzzi on Thomaston Street in Rockland. Police took him into custody Tuesday after he told a friend he heard voices directing him to “do a school shooting.” Weapons and ammunition were seized and Luzzi was held for a mental health evaluation.

In the coming days, prosecutors and mental health professionals will have serious decisions to make regarding the future of Brandon Luzzi, the 62-year-old Rockland man who was involuntarily committed to Pen Bay Medical Center this week for allegedly making threatening statements about shooting up a school.

Brandon Luzzi

Luzzi, who was taken into protective custody Tuesday by Rockland police after he told a friend he heard voices telling him to “do a school shooting,” also could be charged with felony terrorizing for communicating a threat that caused a lockdown at the local schools. Officers executing a search warrant at his house seized seven guns, a flare gun and ammunition, they said.

Now, doctors and clinicians at the hospital must decide whether Luzzi is mentally ill, and if he presents a danger to himself or others. Those answers could lead to his freedom, a voluntary treatment plan or a forced committal.

To answer those questions, state law gives doctors three days to perform evaluations and assess a patient’s mental health. In Luzzi’s case, that window could expire as early as Friday.

How Luzzi’s situation is resolved will depend on a number of factors, including in large part how he has reacted to treatment and what symptoms and behaviors he presented in the past few days, said John Lorenz, an independent licensed psychologist who practices in Bangor. Patient privacy laws mean those outcomes are often hidden from public view.

Although Lorenz has not evaluated Luzzi and does not have intimate knowledge of the case, he spoke generally about how the involuntary commitment process works in the state, and how each option could play out.

“Maine’s law is designed for the safety of everybody, but also so the civil rights of the mentally ill person are not violated,” Lorenz said. “You can have a mental illness and not be dangerous.”

Lorenz said doctors at any time in the process could determine that Luzzi is free to go, and that he does not need treatment.

Doctors could, for instance, determine that Luzzi’s symptoms were caused by a bad interaction between medications, early stage dementia, chemical exposure or a head injury, Lorenz said. He could have presented as if he had a mental illness, but the root cause could be something treatable or entirely different.

“There’s a whole list,” he said. “And that’s why the process is designed to protect the public and also the civil rights of the patients.”

But psychiatrists also could decide at the end of the three-day period that Luzzi needs more help. Luzzi could agree to stay in treatment and become a voluntary patient.

But if doctors think he needs more treatment and Luzzi resists, they could pursue a hearing before a judge. The judge would be asked to determine whether Luzzi should be forced to stay in treatment and for how long.

Before that happens, multiple doctors must evaluate a patient, Lorenz said, a requirement designed in part to prevent a single person’s opinion from being used to take away someone’s freedom. The doctors’ decision then is placed with a judge who weighs the input of everyone and determines the patient’s future.

Separate from the mental health aspect of Luzzi’s case is the potential for criminal charges.

Unfortunately, police say, they are often called to help determine whether someone experiencing mental illness presents a danger.

Luzzi could face one count of felony terrorizing because he mentioned a school in his threat and that resulted in the building being locked down.

“We get (mental health) cases like this all the time,” said Rockland Police Chief Bruce Boucher. “These don’t hit the paper because we can’t release that information.”

Also still unresolved is the question of Luzzi’s firearms – seven rifles or shotguns and a flare gun. If Luzzi is charged, he will likely not have a chance to reclaim his weapons until the criminal case is resolved.

But if Luzzi is released from the hospital and he is not charged, he could petition the court to have the firearms returned to him.

According to Lorenz, the criminal charge that Luzzi might face could play an important part in his future well-being.

Through the court system, prosecutors could decide that a conviction and jail time are not appropriate for Luzzi, but they could mandate that he seek help, Lorenz said. In those cases, prosecutors can structure plea agreements so that the criminal charges evaporate or are significantly reduced after a period of time as long as Luzzi gets treatment, creates a safety plan, follows doctors orders and does not commit new crimes.

“The priority is what’s going to make something safe,” Lorenz said. “If you go to court and you don’t get a conviction, then you don’t have any leverage.”

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MattByrnePPH

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