A man feuding with officials in his rural Pennsylvania town over living conditions at his ramshackle, trash-filled property killed three people at a municipal meeting — including at least one town official — in a rampage that blew holes through the walls and sent people crawling for cover, police said.
The gunman, Rockne Newell, was tackled to the ground and shot with his gun after firing gunshots through the wall and bursting into the meeting Monday night, witnesses said. They said he then went to his car and got another weapon to keep firing.
“I heard more than 10 shots,” Pocono Record reporter Chris Reber said in a first-person account. “It was automatic, like a string of firecrackers.”
State police said they believed two people may have subdued the gunman, who was shot in one of his legs. Witnesses and officials called them heroes.
The shooting, which injured at least two other people, happened shortly before 7:30 p.m. during Ross Township’s monthly meeting, Monroe County emergency management director Guy Miller said. State police said about 15 to 18 residents and town officials were at the building, a short drive from Newell’s property, when the gunfire erupted.
Two people died at the scene, and a third person died after being flown to a hospital. Police confirmed that at least one of the dead was a township official but declined to give additional details. A fourth person, a woman, was undergoing surgery late Monday. Her injuries were not disclosed.
Investigators said Newell began shooting as he approached the building and continued as he walked into and through it. He then went back out to his vehicle in the parking lot, retrieved a handgun and went back into the building, firing more shots, police said.
Reber said he was at the township building when a man armed with a long gun with a scope shot through a wall into the meeting.
“The thing that got my attention: plaster flying out, blowing out through the walls. Witnesses would later tell me they saw pictures exploding away from the walls,” Reber said in the first-person account told to his editors Marta Gouger and Chris Mele.
He said he crawled out to a hallway, exited the building and took cover behind a vehicle.
“The gunman was this guy wearing a blue Hawaiian shirt,” he said. “I saw him go back out to his car, a silver Impala, and get another gun.
“It wasn’t real to me until I went back inside and saw people bleeding.”
A local official at the meeting grabbed the shooter and subdued him, Reber said.
“(West End Open Space Commission executive director) Bernie Kozen bear-hugged the gunman and took him down,” Reber said. “He shot the shooter with his own gun.”
Rep. Matt Cartwright, who represents the state’s 17th District, said he was “stunned and appalled at the atrocities that claimed the lives of innocent citizens in Ross Township.” He said he had heard about what Kozen did to prevent more bloodshed.