Deceased bailiffs, gunman named in shooting at St. Joseph (MI) courthouse

Ronald+Kienzle+and+Joe+Zangaro

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (WNDU) – Two bailiffs were shot and killed and a deputy sheriff was injured at the Berrien County Courthouse in St. Joseph, Michigan, after an inmate got hold of an officer’s firearm.

It happened around 2:25 p.m. Monday afternoon.

According to Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey, 45-year-old Larry Darnell Gordon was in the process of being moved from a holding cell. A fight erupted outside of the cell and the inmate got hold of the gun, shot the deputy and then shot and killed two other bailiffs.

A civilian was also shot before officers killed Gordon.

On Monday night, the two bailiffs were identified as Ronald Kienzle and Joe Zangaro.

Kienzle was a 63-year-old retired sergeant with the Benton Charter Township Police Department. He also served in the U.S. Army.

Zangaro was the 61-year-old head of courthouse security. He retired from the Michigan State Police as post commander of the Bridgman Post.

“Our hearts are torn apart. They were my friends. They were my colleagues. I’ve known them for over 30 years,” said Sheriff Bailey.

James Atterberry Jr., 41, is the deputy sheriff who was injured. He’s currently in intensive care.

The unnamed civilian is being treated for an arm injury at a local hospital.

Gordon, from Coloma, was in custody on several felony charges. According to our sister station WOOD-TV: Gordon was in jail on two counts of criminal sexual conduct, Michigan State Police records show. He was also facing charges of kidnapping, assault with a dangerous weapon, and domestic violence.

WOOD-TV spoke with Jessica Gordon, Larry Gordon’s ex-wife.

“I don’t want the press to paint a picture of him as angry, violent person,” Jessica said. “Nobody knows the truth because they weren’t there. They don’t know why he was in jail, because they weren’t there.”

According to Sheriff Bailey, it doesn’t appear that Gordon was cuffed at the time of the shooting. The sheriff explained that not all inmates would be cuffed in this situation, and he says they had no indication that Gordon would be violent.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder visited St. Joseph a few hours after the shooting occurred.

“This is a terrible event to have happened, and we need to rally together to support one another. You can see that from the community members with me and the law enforcement members with me, but we should all be standing together to say, ‘How do we support one another? How do we work to make sure these things don’t happen?'” Gov. Snyder said.

“I think the biggest thing is unity,” Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad said. “As we look at this tragedy, I think collectively and together, if we pull together — of course, prayers — just think about our fellow neighbor in times like this. I think that, together, we can pull through it and hopefully come out stronger.”

At the time of the shooting, the courthouse had been operating like it would on any other day.

“I went over there, and they told me go back to my car, and I’m like, “I’m not going back to my car. My daughter and my wife’s in there,” explained Benton Harbor resident Mike Ramsey. “People were being evacuated from the fourth floor, and I’m like, Why are you being evacuated from the fourth floor?” They said, “You need to get out of here. There’s a person with a gun.” I’m like, “Well, I’m not leaving. My wife and daughter’s on the fourth floor.” And I was kind of puzzled why they were coming out but [my family wasn’t].”

Some people who were inside the courthouse at the time of the shooting took cover as officers cleared the building.

“They went for shelter once the shooting occurred, and other brave officers were able to come to their rescue and take the shooter down,” Sheriff Bailey explained.

“What occurred today in my hometown breaks my heart,” U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) said in a statement. “My thoughts are with our entire community – our friends and neighbors. This tragic event reminds us all too well that our law enforcement officers have their lives on the line every day not knowing what that day will bring. We have lost two very able public servants and we all grieve for them and their families. As we learn more about this horrific situation, one thing is clear: we must do better to prevent these types of tragedies from occurring.”

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the shooting today in my hometown of St. Joseph,” Sen. John Proos (R-St. Joseph) said. “My thoughts and prayers as well as those of my family are with the victims and all those affected by this tragedy. At the time of the incident, I was at my constituent service office just a block away from the courthouse. I can therefore attest to the professionalism and outright heroism of law enforcement agencies as well as first responders from all over Southwest Michigan. These men and women get up every day and put themselves in harm’s way in order to serve and protect our community. Today, they were met with violence, and apparently, several have lost their lives.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the two sheriff’s bailiffs who were slain in this senseless act of violence. We hope for a speedy recovery for the deputy and others who also were injured during this tragedy,” State Rep. Al Pscholka (R-Stevensville) said. “The men and women who work in our court system and in law enforcement put their lives on the line every time they go into work. We are in a very difficult time across America right now, and this is hitting very close to home. I have faith our local law enforcement officials will sort out the details involved in the shooting in the hours and days to come.”

 

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