BOARDMAN — Michael N. Bruno, 49, tried to plead guilty, asked to go to mental health court, apologized and said, “I’m very confused,” when he was arraigned on a charge of aggravated murder Tuesday in Mahoning County Area Court.
Bruno is a former deputy with the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office who began as a reserve deputy in 1995 and became a full-time deputy in April 2000. He retired in November 2006.
He is charged in the shooting death of his father, Michael J. Bruno, 74, who was dead Saturday morning when Boardman police arrived at their home on Lealand Avenue in Boardman.
A Boardman police report states that Michael N. Bruno told police in a 7:30 a.m. call to 911 that he shot his father, and he did it because “his illness made him do it.” It wasn’t clear what illness he was talking about.
He was sitting on the front lawn in boxer shorts, flip-flops and a polo shirt, with blood on his arms, head and shirt when officers arrived, the report states.
During the arraignment, Judge Joseph Houser told Bruno a couple of times that his comments about mental health court and his guilt did not answer the questions the judge was asking, such as whether he understood the charges against him and whether he had anything to say about the amount of bond an assistant county prosecutor was recommending.
He advised Bruno not to talk about the facts of the case. No plea is requested or accepted on a felony case in a lower court such as Boardman Area Court, so Bruno’s remark about being guilty was not accepted.
Bruno appears to have no previous criminal history in Mahoning County.
When Houser first addressed the defendant, who was arraigned by video from the Mahoning County jail, he asked whether Bruno understood that he is charged with offenses that could result in prison sentences of more than 10 years.
Bruno did not answer right away but eventually said, “I would like to go to mental health court.” But the judge told him an arraignment only deals with preliminary matters, saying, “We’re not quite there yet. Do you understand the charge, Mr. Bruno?”
“Yes,” Bruno replied.
Houser told Bruno the next hearing is a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is probable cause that he may have committed the crime. The judge asked Bruno if he wanted that hearing to take place in 10 days or sooner.
“Guilty,” Bruno replied.
“OK, it’s not a guilty plea at this point,” Houser told him.
The judge set the hearing for 11 a.m. Sept. 27.
Bruno then said he would need a court-appointed attorney and testified that he had only a small amount of money. He said he was making about $300 over two weeks at a job and had about $600 in his bank account and owns no vehicle or real estate.
The Boardman police report states Bruno indicated he had been working as an unarmed security guard for the past two weeks.
Assistant Prosecutor Katherine Jones asked that the judge hold Bruno in jail in lieu of $500,000 bond because of the type of crime involved. The judge then asked Bruno if he wanted to say anything about the recommendation of the prosecutor’s office.
“I’m very sorry for what happened to Mahoning County and Trumbull County and surrounding counties,” he said. “And I just want mental health to better my life and to work and treat people right, I’m very sorry. I never meant for this to happen.”
“OK, I don’t want you to get into the facts of the case,” the judge said. “I just want to know if you want to say anything on your behalf regarding bond, anything else regarding bond.”
Bruno said he was “very confused.”
Deputies with him at the jail explained the question again, and Bruno said he did not have anything to say about the bond amount.
Houser set bond at $500,000.
The police report states that the first officer to arrive at the home off of Mathews Road found Bruno sitting in the front yard holding his cellphone. He told the officer he was not armed. The officer ordered Bruno onto his stomach with his arms out, which he did, and he was handcuffed.
Bruno said only his father was in the house. A detective went inside and in a bedroom found Bruno’s father, owner of the home, dead with multiple gunshot wounds.
When the officer asked Bruno what happened, Bruno said he had been “sick for at least the last week and a half and took two rapid tests at home.”
The officer asked if he meant a test for COVID-19, and Bruno said yes. When Bruno was asked about a gun, Bruno said the “disease made him have a gun.” He denied being in an argument with his father before shooting him, the report states.
“So you just shot him then?”
“Yes,” Bruno said.
He told the officer he owned a “baby Glock” that he obtained when he was a law enforcement officer, and that is the gun he used to shoot his father.
Bruno said he had contracted COVID-19 twice and had to call off from his security job. “This disease is taking over America,” Bruno said. The officer took Bruno to St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital for treatment before he was taken to jail.
Bruno told the officer he hoped his father lived. He said his mother is in a nursing home. Police later contacted his mother to inform her of the elder Bruno’s death.
Officers obtained a search warrant to search the home.
The police report indicates several firearms were found at the home, including a Glock pistol and many spent bullet shell casings.