BALTIMORE — A man wearing an animal costume and claiming to carry explosives who walked into a Baltimore TV news station demanding air time has been charged with arson and other counts, Baltimore police said Friday.
Alex Michael Brizzi, 25, of Maryland, was shot and wounded in Thursday’s incident.
He’s charged with two felonies: second-degree arson and first-degree malicious burning, Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said at a news conference Friday. Brizzi also faces several misdemeanor charges, including threat of arson, reckless endangerment and possession of a phony destructive device.
Brizzi is being treated in a Baltimore hospital with injuries that are not life threatening, Davis said.
Police are ruling out terrorism, and say mental illness may have played a role.
The suspect’s father Edward Brizzi, who spoke to CNN affiliate WBFF Thursday, said his son had lost his job and broken up with his girlfriend, and appeared to have a nervous breakdown.
Man in hedgehog onesie
The incident began at around 1:20 p.m. when an intruder entered the vestibule of the FOX45 building and engaged in conversation with a security contractor, Davis said.
The man said he had a bomb and “a message he wanted to be heard” and handed a flash drive to the guard.
Brizzi was wearing a hedgehog onesie, and his face was hidden behind sunglasses and a surgical mask.
“This outfit appears to be associated with Japanese anime culture,” Davis said.
After the security contractor saw what appeared to be an explosive device strapped on the man, he alerted staff and they began to evacuate the building. At the same time, the guard engaged the suspect in conversation.
“Brizzi said he wanted to air the contents of that flash drive on television,” said Davis. “What we know at this point is that the flash drive contained video rants of Brizzi talking about the end of the world.”
Around 3 p.m. the suspect came out of the building but ignored police officers’ orders to take his hand out of his pockets, Davis said. Three officers opened fire, striking the suspect.
Officers could not render first aid immediately because the suspect still had some sort of detonator device, Davis said.
A bomb squad robot was brought in. “The robot was able to disarm and disrobe Brizzi,” Davis said.
The fake bomb was a life preserver outfitted with wires and chocolate candy bars wrapped in aluminum foil, police said.
Security guard “absolutely a hero”
The security contractor at the television station is being praised for keeping calm and handling a tough situation.
Joural Apostolides told WBFF that he talked to the intruder for about 45 minutes Thursday.
“At first I thought it was a joke,” Apostolides told the station. “I mean, he was wearing a hedgehog onesie. So I didn’t really think it was serious, but then he kept on saying he didn’t want to hurt anyone and … I told him that I understood that and, if he wanted to sit tight, I would try to help him out.”
Police Commissioner Davis said he may like to hire the guard.
“I can’t say enough about the security contractor, what he did yesterday, he is absolutely a hero,” said Davis.
“I don’t know if that’s just his nature, I don’t know if that’s his training, it’s probably a combination of both, but that grace under pressure is something that’s admirable, that’s something that not everyone has … he stayed engaged with this person and simultaneously evacuated the building, and that’s impressive.”