, Salem, MA

January 17, 2013

Police: Man with toy gun confronts officers

By Neil H. Dempsey
Staff writer

---- — SWAMPSCOTT — No injuries were reported after an early morning confrontation at the police station between officers and a man with a gun that turned out to be a toy.

Florenzo Lecce, 19, of 317 Paradise Road, Swampscott, was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct; assault with a dangerous weapon, to wit a handgun; possession of a knife; and threats to commit a crime. He was being held last night at an undisclosed hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. He will be denied bail until a dangerousness hearing at a later date, police spokesman Tim Cassidy said.

The incident began around 5 a.m. yesterday, when Lecce walked into the police station on Burrill Street and asked Officer Steve Luck whether he was alone, Cassidy said in a press release. When Luck replied that he was not, and asked why, Lecce told Luck that he needed to speak to officers in the parking lot, according to the release.

Lt. John Behen radioed for units to return to the station, while Luck followed Lecce into the lot with a flashlight and asked him what he was doing, Cassidy said. When Lecce didn’t respond, Luck asked again.

When Lecce turned around, Luck saw what appeared to be a silver handgun tucked in his belt and he “was tapping on the gun,” Cassidy said.

Luck radioed for units to speed up their response because the man had a firearm. Behen contacted the state police for a negotiator. Lynn and Marblehead police were also notified of the incident.

Luck drew his weapon and ordered Lecce to drop his, but he “just continued to tap on the gun,” Cassidy said.

Three other officers and Behen had taken cover in the parking lot with their weapons drawn when the suspect asked what they would do if he pulled the gun out “right now,” Cassidy said.

Officers spoke to Lecce for several minutes, “closing ranks” around him all the while, then tackled him to the ground and arrested him, Cassidy said. During the arrest, it was discovered that the handgun was a toy and that Lecce also had a knife.

Lecce later asked officers “why they didn’t shoot him,” Cassidy said.

“The officers involved in this unfortunate incident should be commended for their bravery and for showing extreme restraint in dealing with this incident,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy said officers working the midnight shift about two nights before had discussed similar incidents and watched a video of a shootout between Detroit police and a man who walked into their station and opened fire.

The suspect in that incident was killed, Cassidy said.