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BY KEVIN AMERMAN, JACOB SEIBEL AND PETER HALL, THE (ALLENTOWN) MORNING CALL Published: August 7, 2013
The hail of bullets police say Rockne Newell unleashed on the Ross Township Municipal Building was intended to kill the township leaders he blamed for the loss of his ramshackle home because they had condemned it.
This photo (above) taken May 22, 2013 shows Rockne Newell talking about his trials and tribulations with Ross Township, Pa., over junk on his property. State police identified 59-year-old Newell as the suspect in a shooting Monday, Aug, 5, 2013 in which three people were killed and at least two others injured in Ross Township. Witnesses say he barged into a municipal meeting room and began shooting before being tackled by a local official and possibly another person. (AP Photo/Pocono Record, Keith R. Stevenson) MANDATORY CREDIT Saylorsburg Shooting Photo Gallery
Saylorsburg Shooting Photo Gallery The hail of bullets police say Rockne Newell unleashed on the Ross Township Municipal Building was intended to kill the township leaders he blamed for the loss of his ramshackle home because they had condemned it. But the lives lost in the gunfire were three men engaged in the humdrum of local government — two residents who wanted zoning permits and a zoning officer working a second career to improve the community he loved.
James V. LaGuardia, 64, and Gerard Kozic, 53, both of Saylorsburg, were found dead at the scene of the shooting Monday night, authorities said. The third victim, zoning officer David Fleetwood, 62, died at St. Luke's University Hospital in Fountain Hill about an hour after the shooting. All died from gunshots, authorities said. Linda Kozic, the wife of Gerard Kozic, was flown to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest and is expected to survive, state police said. Frank Piraino suffered what police described as a graze wound to the head. Ross Supervisor Howard Beers Jr. suffered a hand wound, although it is unclear whether it is a gunshot wound. Newell, 59, who is charged with three counts of criminal homicide plus attempted homicide and aggravated assault, told police he intended to shoot the township attorney and supervisors. He is being held without bail in Monroe County Prison. He told state troopers he targeted the supervisors meeting, attended by 15 to 18 people, because it was the only place he could find the officials in a single location, court documents say. "You took my property," Newell yelled, using profanity, according to a witness quoted by police in court papers. As troopers took Newell to the hospital for treatment of a gunshot wound, he uttered "I wish I killed more of them," according to court papers. State police say nothing involving Newell was on the agenda for the meeting and township officials weren't expecting him to be there. State police said Newell appears to have just one previous arrest, for reckless endangerment in the 1980s. They couldn't provide details. According to police: Newell's rampage Monday night began when he fired a Ruger .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle from a township office through a wall and into the meeting room. He then went to the meeting room's doorway and fired shots before going outside and firing shots through windows. He fired 28 rounds from the rifle. The gunman then went to his car in the parking lot, left the rifle and returned to the building with a .44-caliber revolver and continued shooting. Two men attending the meeting, Bernie Kozen and Mark Kresh, who police hailed as "courageous,"
ended the horror when they wrestled Newell to the floor. In the struggle, Newell was shot in the leg with his revolver. "They are the heroes in this incident," state police Lt. George Bivens said of Kozen and Kresh. David LaBar, who lives near the municipal building, heard the shots and ran across the street with his gun. When LaBar walked into the building, he saw victims lying on the floor. In the far corner of the room someone had Newell's revolver trained on him, he said, while three or four others had the gunman pinned down. That's when LaBar said he focused his attention on helping Gerard and Linda Kozic. When Gerard Kozic did not respond to CPR, LaBar tried helping his wife, who was shot in the leg. Lying on the floor next to her dying husband, she shouted for LaBar to help her husband and not her. LaBar said he then heard someone yelling from outside. The man had a gunshot wound to the stomach, and told LaBar his back felt like it was on fire and to turn him onto his side. LaBar told the man he couldn't do that because he had been shot, but instead brought him water until an ambulance arrived. "I felt bad for these people, bleeding to death and no one to help them," LaBar said. Besides serving as Ross' zoning officer, Fleetwood was a supervisor in neighboring Chestnuthill Township. Chestnuthill Township Manager Dave Albright said he believes Fleetwood will also be remembered as a hero in the shooting. Based on state police descriptions and eyewitness accounts of the events, Albright said he understands that Fleetwood used his body to shield others in the room from Newell's shots. "He was just a selfless person, a great guy that would do anything for you," Albright said of Fleetwood, who retired from a career at IBM and worked part time as the zoning officer.
Joseph LaGuardia of Atlanta, the son of victim James LaGuardia, said his father was a TV repairman who had owned his own business since he was 18. He described his father as a church-going man with strong values who was "the life of the party." "He was such a magnetic person who was extremely close to his family," Joseph LaGuardia said. "He was the glue and the center of the family. He never said an unkind word to anyone." Attempts to reach family members of Fleetwood and Kozic were unsuccessful. As investigators combed the shooting scene behind a roadblock Tuesday morning, residents of the sparsely populated community of about 5,500 were struggling to come to grips with events of the night before. "It's shocking," said Gary Palmer, a retired PPL mechanic who has lived 3 miles from the municipal building for 35 years. "It's just so laid back in this township." "The biggest thing that goes on here is the flea market," he added. "We have a few accidents and a few break-ins now and then, but for the most part, it's quiet." Palmer said his sister and her husband and son were at the large park next to the municipal building when the shots rang out. He said they ran toward the hills behind the building for safety. State police said they believe Newell was incensed over the loss of his Flyte Road property, which included a dilapidated home and several outbuildings. Kozen, one of the men who subdued Newell, told police the shooter shouted he was after the supervisors for taking his home. Newell's dispute with township officials over the land, littered with old tires, building materials and junk cars, stretches back nearly two decades. In the 1990s, he fought officials over permits for a storage shed that he was also using as a dwelling, the Pocono Record reported in June Recently, he sparred with state environmental officials over the unauthorized installation of a culvert for his driveway that replaced a bridge washed away in a 2011 flood.
But the legal defeat that ultimately cost Newell his land came in 2002 when the township won an $8,000 judgment in district court over code violations. Minutes from supervisors meetings show officials have been discussing collecting a lien against the property and legal proceedings to condemn the land. Police said the township recently bought Newell's property in a sheriff's sale. On Tuesday, state police executed a search warrant, first allowing bomb-sniffing dogs and technicians to sweep the property for booby traps. Police said they were also working to obtain a warrant to search a home in Hamilton Township where Newell recently had been living. Newell's online persona appears to give a window not only to his political leanings as an environmentally conscious gun owner, but also the dispute that was at the heart of Monday's shooting. In a donation Web page called "save Rocky's home," he briefly details his problems with Ross Township regulators and makes an appeal for donations. No money had been raised by the Oct. 19, 2012, deadline listed on the page. "I need to clean up & I need a lawyer, I have no place to go and my 2 rescue dogs will be put to sleep because no one else will take them," Newell wrote, noting that he lived on $600 a month in Social Security insurance. Perhaps more revealing is a Facebook page in which he lists himself as a former laborer at Hercules Powder Co., and a former student at Northampton Community College. In posts for his 69 friends, Newell says he voted for President Barack Obama but is disappointed that the president has not closed the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp, halted marijuana prosecution or released classified information leaker Bradley Manning. Newell also writes about his defense of the Second Amendment, his distrust for big oil companies and his belief that more regulations should be drafted to save the environment, including an end to hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania. But not every post was political. He also made several posts about the chickens he kept in his yard. In his most recent post, he wrote about his new smartphone. Reporters Matt Assad and Tracy Jordan contributed to this report.
Source: Saylorsburg shooting: 'I wish I killed more of them' - http://thetimestribune.com/news/saylorsburg-shooting-i-wish-i-killed-more-of-them-1.1532724
Ross shooting raises municipal security issues
BY ROBERT SWIFT (HARRISBURG BUREAU CHIEF) Published: August 7, 2013 HARRISBURG - The fatal shootings at a Ross Twp. municipal meeting will heighten efforts by local officials to improve public security and procedures to handle active shooters, said the head of the statewide association representing township supervisors Tuesday. "This brings to the forefront of what you do if you have an active shooter," said David Sanko, executive director of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors. A number of townships recently completed training exercises in that area. But township supervisors face a delicate balancing act with increasing security and maintaining public access to a basic level of government, he said. Township officials are on the front line dealing with the public on matters like tax bills and sewage problems. "There are decisions that are made every day at the township level that are likely to make somebody mad," said Mr. Sanko. "You hope their anger doesn't get out of control." The alleged shooter, township resident Rockne Newell, who faces charges of homicide and attempted homicide, had been involved in a long-running dispute with the township over dilapidated property. Mr. Sanko is versed in preparedness issues, having been chief of staff to former Gov. Mark Schweiker and then executive director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency when the initial programs were set up in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
State lawmakers have focused on improving school safety since the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., in December. New laws expand the scope of state school security grants and provide $8.5 million for them. But Mr. Sanko said it's more likely given Harrisburg's fiscal problems that any new source of security money for municipalities would come through federal homeland security programs. Rep. Mario Scavello, R-176, Mount Pocono, called a moment of silence for the three shooting victims at the start of a House Labor and Industry Committee hearing Tuesday at the Capitol. Mr. Scavello was at the Municipal Building providing assistance in the aftermath of Monday night's shootings. The lawmaker knew many of the victims, including the late Chestnuthill Twp. Supervisor David Fleetwood, whom he first met in connection with Little League activities. While a Chestnuthill Twp. supervisor, Mr. Fleetwood also worked as part-time zoning officer for Ross Twp., said Mr. Scavello. "That man was a joy to talk to," said Mr. Scavello. "He cared for people. He was dedicated to kids." The lawmaker said improving security at municipal buildings will have to be considered in the wake of the tragedy. Sen. Lisa Baker, R-20, Lehman Twp., expressed sympathy to the families of the victims and the community. As chairwoman of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, Ms. Baker helped steer passage of the new school safety law and held hearings on those issues. "One of the concerns expressed during the school safety hearings was that excessive security measures make parents more distant from the classroom, and that same concern would seem to apply to the relationship between local governments and the public," she said.
Source: Ross shooting raises municipal security issues - http://thetimestribune.com/news/ross-shooting-raises-municipal-security-issues-1.1532688
Ross Township shooting survivor says hero 'took the shots' for her
BY DANIEL PATRICK SHEEHAN AND BILL LANDAUER, OF THE MORNING CALL Published: August 7, 2013 Cleoria Campodonico went to the Ross Township Municipal Building on Wednesday morning with a bouquet of flowers. With tears in her eyes, she laid them alongside the others in an impromptu memorial outside the building where a gunman opened fire on a public meeting Monday night. In the hail of bullets from a semi-automatic rifle unleashed by a man police say was angered over the township's seizure of his property, three men died. Campodonico, who was at the meeting, said a man she didn't know pushed her down and saved her life by sacrificing his. "Dave Fleetwood pushed me out of the way and took the shots," said Campodonico. "How can I repay his family for that? Dave Fleetwood is a hero. I came home to my family and he didn't.' David Fleetwood, 62, was the township's zoning officer and an elected supervisor in a neighboring township. He died at a hospital about an hour after the shooting. James V. LaGuardia, 64, and Gerard Kozic, 53, both of Saylorsburg, died at the scene. Campodonico, crying as she recounted the horrible night, said she never expected to leave the building alive. "I thought there was more than one person, it was just shot after shot after shot," she said, describing the attack. Police say Rockne Newell, 59, who had a longstanding dispute with the township over zoning issues and eventually had his property condemned, committed the attack. Charged with three counts of criminal homicide plus attempted homicide and aggravated assault, he told police he intended to shoot the township attorney and supervisors.
Campodonico made three calls from the meeting Monday night — to 911, her husband and her daughter. "I called 911, they heard the shots, they said, 'Ma'am, find a place to hide,' Campodonico said. "There was no place to hide." Dave LaBar, a member of the township Planning Commission who lives across the street, said the solicitor came running to his house after the shots erupted and told him to get his gun and come to the municipal building. LaBar said he saw Campodonico coming out of it, and she cowered, thinking he was the shooter. LaBar reassured her and went inside, where he saw bodies. He said several men had the alleged shooter pinned down, and LaBar, a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, tried to give CPR to one of the victims. He's still trying to shake the awful night by keeping busy. "I don't sleep too well," he said. Campodonico, who left Hazleton and moved to the township for its peaceful atmosphere, said she had come to the meeting Monday to see if a recent protest against a Turkish cleric who lived near her would be discussed. On Wednesday, the office of the township building was closed and the yellow police tape from the day before was gone. She put her bouquet with the others. It had a card that said "In memory of our hometown heroes." Still crying, Campodonico said, "I'll never step in inside that building again, ever."
Source: Ross Township shooting survivor says hero 'took the shots' for her - http:// thetimes-tribune.com/news/ross-township-shooting-survivor-says-hero-took-theshots-for-her-1.1532952
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