The Coastal Star

Ocean Ridge: Lucibella faces formal charges in backyard shooting, resigns from office

Vice Mayor Lucibella resignation letter

By Steve Plunkett and Dan Moffett

Ocean Ridge Vice Mayor Richard Lucibella faces formal charges of battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting an officer with violence, both felonies, and misdemeanor use of a firearm while under the influence of alcohol at an Oct. 22 backyard gathering at his home.

Assistant State Attorney Danielle Grundt added the felony battery charge Dec. 7 but decided not to take action on a misdemeanor count of discharging a firearm in public. Her filing automatically cancelled a hearing set for Dec. 8.

The same day Grundt filed charges, Lucibella sent a letter resigning from his posts as vice mayor and commissioner. "Due to impending litigation between the Town of Ocean Ridge and myself, it would be impossible for me to effectively discharge the duties of my office," he wrote.

Lucibella’s attorney, Marc Shiner, did not immediately respond to a phone call or email seeking comment.

Police arrived at Lucibella’s oceanfront home that Saturday night after neighbors complained of hearing gunshots. Officers said they found the vice mayor and one of their supervisors, Lt. Steven Wohlfiel, “obviously intoxicated” on the patio. Officers say they took a .40-caliber Glock handgun from Lucibella and found five spent shell casings on the patio. Police also confiscated a semiautomatic pistol they said Lucibella had in his back pocket.

According to police reports, when officers Richard Ermeri and Nubia Plesnik tried to block Lucibella from entering the house, he resisted. The officers wrestled him to the ground and handcuffed him. Lucibella needed treatment for facial injuries, and Ermeri and Plesnik also required medical attention.

Lucibella, 63, was absent from the two Town Commission meetings since the incident, on Nov. 7 and Dec. 5. His three-year term would have expired in March.

Through Shiner, Lucibella has claimed that he is the victim of police overreaction. He maintains they should not have entered his backyard in the first place, and then that they used excessive force. Shiner has called for Ermeri’s firing and an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The use of excessive force is a defense against a charge of battery on a law enforcement officer.

Police Chief Hal Hutchins reassigned Wohlfiel until completion of the investigation of his role in the incident. Both Lucibella and the lieutenant told police they knew nothing about shots being fired.

Hutchins said Dec. 8 there is no change in status on the internal investigation, which he called “involved.”

“We are looking at everything and everybody. We want to make sure we have all the information,” Hutchins said.

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Comment by eileen r pettus on December 9, 2016 at 7:16pm
Arrogance is not a typical trait of a critical thinker.
Comment by Thomas Baldwin on December 9, 2016 at 5:55pm

Dearest Eileen-

Your emotion is laudable. But a tiny fraction of critical thinking might carry us all much further.

Did you read the part about their superior officer being at the scene when they arrived? Did you note that the firearm in question was the same as those carried by the Ocean Ridge PD? Did you miss the part where his attorney claims the guy has three broken ribs? From a "scuffle"? Things that make you go "hmmm", when you ask the right questions as opposed to declaring your preconceived conclusions.

Did Lucibella sue the Town? If so, I seem to have missed that memo....but your narrative is, at least, consistent.....with your narrative.

People would rather die than think. In fact, most do.

TB

Comment by eileen r pettus on December 8, 2016 at 3:53pm

about time......bet he sues the town again....what a charming guy!

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