Online threat leads to closure of Horton Point Lighthouse

Horton Point Lighthouse in Southold was closed Sunday due to safety concerns following threats posted on social media by a homeless man Saturday, officials said.

Southold Historical Society executive director Karen Lund-Rooney, whose organization manages the lighthouse, confirmed that the decision to close the lighthouse was the result of threatening messages posted on Facebook.

“It mentioned ‘cut throats and cracked skulls,’” she said. “I felt it was a threat.”

Ms. Lund-Rooney said police contacted her Saturday morning after they found a man sleeping on a bench at the historical society’s Main Road museum complex. She didn’t see him return and said the lighthouse’s 160th anniversary celebration took place that afternoon without incident.

When Ms. Lund-Rooney returned home later that evening, she said, a lighthouse volunteer contacted her and said the man had posted threatening messages on his Facebook page.

Since the historical society had also planned to host a Revolutionary War encampment at its museum complex over the weekend, Ms. Lund-Rooney said she returned to the property after calling police and discovered that the man was “at the campsite, had dinner with the re-enactors and planned to stay again.”

“The police took him aside and I signed an affidavit of no trespassing,” she said, adding that the re-enactors decided to stay even though she told them they could go home.

Ms. Lund-Rooney said the man returned Sunday morning, but volunteers didn’t contact police since he left right after they told him to leave. When he was spotted across the street later in the day, police were called but he wasn’t arrested since he wasn’t on the property, she said. Police again told him to leave and he hasn’t returned since, Ms. Lund-Rooney said, adding the man later posted threats against her on Facebook.

Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley said Sunday the man is homeless and had been asked to leave several stores in the area.

“The most recent Facebook posts do not fit into the definition of harassment at this time,” he said in an email Tuesday. “The officer handling the calls had run the reports past the [Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office] for review and they did not think there was enough there either to charge [him].”

Mr. Flatley added that the man would be arrested for trespassing if he returns to any of the establishments.

Ms. Lund-Rooney confirmed a security guard has patrolled the lighthouse and museum complex and was also present Tuesday during a student field trip.

While the lighthouse was closed Sunday, its last day of the season, Ms. Lund-Rooney said the historical society’s Main Road museum complex remained open.

Ms. Lund-Rooney said Saturday’s incident isn’t related to last year’s lighthouse closure, which followed a pair of incidents that led to the arrest of a different man. That case is still pending in court, she said.

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File photo credit: Katharine Schroeder

Editor’s note: This story was updated Tuesday night to reflect how it will appear in Thursday’s edition of The Suffolk Times.