Speed, lights put fire volunteer in trouble with law

Mark Zaretsky, Register Staff

EAST HAVEN — A 19-year-old Branford volunteer firefighter was arrested after police responded to a report that he was driving at a high rate of speed, crossed a double yellow center line on Hemingway Avenue and passed others with illegal flashing red and white lights and an illegal siren while on his way to a fire, police said Monday.

The incident took place just before 9 a.m. Sunday.

Police seized Michael Lucibello’s red Chevy Blazer at the McDonald’s rest stop on northbound Interstate 95 in Branford, said police Lt. Joseph Slane.

Officers also seized a .22 caliber rifle and a Branford Fire Department badge, handcuffs and police scanner.

Lucibello’s mother, Marion Lucibello, claims her son owns the rifle legally and that he was not charged with any violation in connection with the gun.

"He’s in a little hot water," said Branford Fire Chief Jack Ahern, who suspended Lucibello, of 77 Hyde St. in New Haven, pending the outcome of the case. Ahern asked East Haven police not to give Lucibello back any Branford Fire Department property they might have seized. If found guilty, Lucibello will be brought before the Branford Board of Fire Commissioners, Ahern said.

"As far we are concerned, these are extremely serious charges," said Ahern, explaining that red and white flashing lights and a siren are allowed only on firetrucks and other official department vehicles.

"We give a blue light permit to a volunteer who has the permission of his captain," Ahern said. "That allows them to use a blue light, which is simply a courtesy light" that lets people know the driver is heading to an emergency, but does not require them to stop.

Lucibello, who attends college out of state but comes home to New Haven’s Morris Cove section on weekends to work, could not be reached for comment. Marion Lucibello, while admitting her son was "overzealous," said police had blown the incident out of proportion.

"All they really needed to do was give him a ticket," said Marion Lucibello, in whose name the Blazer is registered.

"He was going to a fire. He had lights on the vehicle. Some of them were illegal, which we didn’t know. They just overreacted. They just threw the book at him, actually" after someone he passed called police and complained.

"He’s not a criminal. He’s a good kid," she added. "He didn’t know he was doing anything wrong."

The rifle "was all locked up and the keys are in his room," Lucibello said.

"He’s a good kid who did a bad, stupid thing — and he didn’t hurt anybody. He wasn’t dealing drugs. He didn’t point his gun at anyone. ... It realy just got blown out of proportion."

Michael Lucibello was charged with reckless driving, breach of peace, use of siren without permit, misuse of red/blue light and unauthorized color lights, said Slane. He was released on $1,500 bail and is scheduled to appear in Superior Court in New Haven on Nov. 14.

Slane asked for anyone who may have witnessed Lucibello’s red Blazer operating as an emergency vehicle to contact the Police Department at 468-3820.

Mark Zaretsky can be reached at mzaretsky@nhregister.com, or 789-5722.

©New Haven Register 2007

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