3 dead after angry resident opens fire on Pennsylvania municipal meeting

Posted Aug. 06, 2013, at 6:07 a.m.
Last modified Aug. 06, 2013, at 10:39 a.m.

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Three people were killed and four were hospitalized after a man involved in a long-running dispute with Pennsylvania local officials fired shots into a crowded meeting room Monday night.

State police said the gunman, who they identified as Rockne Warren Newell, began firing a rifle through the windows of the Ross Township Municipal Building on Anchorage Road about 7:23 p.m., where between 15 and 18 people were gathered for a township supervisors meeting.

Newell entered the building, continuing to fire the rifle. He then left the building, where he retrieved a handgun from a vehicle, returned to the building and continued shooting.

Newell, 59, had recently been removed from his property at 293 Flight Road, after township officials condemned it for code violations, state police said.

Two of the victims died at the scene, while the third died at St. Luke’s Hospital-Fountain Hill after being flown there by helicopter. A fourth victim was reportedly in surgery at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest late Monday night after being taken there by helicopter.

Monroe County Coroner Bob Allen said he would not release the identities of the victims who died at the scene until their relatives were notified. Lehigh County Coroner Scott Grim could not be reached Monday night regarding the victim who succumbed to his injuries at St. Luke’s Hospital.

The gunman, who suffered a gunshot wound, was hospitalized at Pocono Medical Center in East Stroudsburg. According to a Pocono Record reporter’s first-person account of the shooting, Newell was injured when a township official turned the gunman’s own weapon against him, police said.

One person suffered a graze wound from a bullet. Another person was hospitalized with what state police described as a “stress related” illness, police said.

State police Capt. Edward Hoke said Newell was subdued by a member of the public and the township official, who reportedly shot Newell.

“It was certainly courageous what they did,” Hoke said. “They absolutely would have saved lives. He was entering the building again with a handgun and his intent had been shown to do harm to people, and certainly if they would not have done that he would have injured other people.”

Hoke said police were working to obtain a search warrant to obtain evidence from Newell’s former home.

Hoke said Newell has been removed from his home on Thursday because of issues related to the lack of sewer service on the property. There was nothing on the agenda of the supervisors meeting related to his property.

Hoke noted that Newell had arrived at the meeting in a car with Texas license plates. Police were also working to obtain a warrant to search the car and obtain the rifle allegedly used in the shooting.

The handgun that Newell allegedly used was recovered from the scene by police.

For more than a decade, Newell has been in a dispute with the township over the property, which was littered with cast-off building parts, junk cars and other debris. Newell said in an interview at the time the items were like a museum collection.

Court records show the township obtained an $8,000 judgment against Newell in district court. The nature of the township’s lawsuit against Newell is unclear in court records.

Pocono Record reporter Chris Reber, who was covering the meeting, reported seeing bullet holes appear in the walls and a string of shots.

“It was automatic, like a string of firecrackers. That’s what everyone said,” Reber wrote.

After an initial round of shooting, the gunman went to the parking lot and returned with another weapon.

Reber said a township official who was tending to a wounded man was able to wrestle the shooter to the ground and shot the gunman with his own gun.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

 

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