The Macomb Daily, Mount Clemens, Mich.
In the few years he’s lived in Warren, Michael Liburdi’s neighbors thought he was a “bit out there, with numerous police scanners in the house, barbed wire lining his fence, and a penchant for explosives.
But even they were surprised when an explosion coming from Liburdi’s residence rocked their houses on Saturday afternoon.
The explosion and subsequent fire severed both of Liburdi’s arms and added further evidence to an ongoing federal investigation. He remained hospitalized Sunday and authorities aren’t sure if he will recover.
“The homeowner had been under investigation by our department for felony violations as well as another federal agency,” Warren Police Commissioner William Dwyer said Sunday. “He had an extensive record.”
Dwyer declined to name the federal agency that was investigating Liburdi.
Authorities said Liburdi, 38, was under federal investigation for firearms violations at the time of the Saturday afternoon explosion at his home, where he lived alone with his dog on the 20700 block of Gentner Street, in the Eight Mile and Schoenherr roads area.
Police believe an illegal operation was being run out of the house.
After the explosion, police executed a search warrant of the residence and found one dozen rifles, handguns, loaded AR-style magazines, small explosive devices, and 4,000 rounds of ammunition among other materials in the house.
Authorities also found propane tanks in the garage. Neighbors told Macomb Daily that Liburdi was known to make his own fireworks. There also were coils of barbed wire on the ground and attached to the exterior wall in his yard.
“I ain’t gonna lie — he made some (fireworks) for me last year,” one neighbor said.
Warren Fire Commissioner Skip McAdams said one firefighter was also transported to the hospital after suffering heat exhaustion. His injuries were not life-threatening and he is expected to fully recover, according to McAdams.
Warren police and firefighters responded about 3 p.m. Saturday to a report of a house explosion on Gentner. First responders say the explosion took place in the garage, and then a fire spread into the two-story house.
They located Liburdi among the debris. The blast severed part or all of both arms, investigators said.
The victim “suffered severe burns and significant blood loss,” said McAdams.
A neighbor who was watching television when he heard a series of popping sounds followed by an explosion, said he stepped onto his porch only to see Liburdi’s garage in flames. Clayton Collins said the victim “ran into his house and got his dog but it looked like he was missing a hand.”
Another neighbor, who asked that his name not be used, said he had been in Liburdi’s house before and was surprised to see how many police scanners were operating. There also was surveillance cameras, but it’s not clear whether those were functioning.
Liburdi was rushed to Detroit Receiving Hospital for treatment of life-threatening injuries, according to officials. He remained in critical condition on Sunday.
A bomb squad was called to the scene by Michigan State Police.
Dwyer said Warren’s Special Operations Unit and an unnamed federal agency had been investigating Liburdi for weapons and explosives. He declined to say whether there were other individuals involved in the investigation.
Liburdi’s criminal record includes arrests for marijuana possession, possession of dangerous weapons, operating while impaired, resisting arrest and forgery.
Liburdi was featured in a 2016 Detroit News story analyzing how former President Donald Trump won election primarily on the support of white, working class voters. He said he still considers himself a “Democrat with Libertarian leanings.”
“lt was the lesser of two evil-isms,” Liburdi was quoted as saying. “I don’t expect anything magical from any politician. He has limited power like any president, but I think he can stop those trade agreements and stop jobs leaving the country.”
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