SAYLORSBURG, Pa. (AP) — A disabled junk dealer feuding with local officials over his debris-strewn property packed a rental car with guns and ammunition before opening fire at a town meeting and killing three men, authorities said Tuesday.
Rockne Newell, 59, had lost his property this year in a court fight over complaints that he lived in a storage shed, built an illegal culvert and used a bucket outside as a toilet.
At his arraignment on homicide charges Tuesday morning, a judge asked Newell if he owned any real estate.
“They stole it from me. That’s what started all this,” he replied.
Newell allegedly used a Ruger Mini-14 rifle to blast a barrage of gunfire through a wall into the meeting room Monday night in Ross Township, about 85 miles north of Philadelphia, before entering the room and shooting a supervisor and four residents, two of whom survived.
Newell then retreated to the car and picked up a revolver, authorities said. When he returned to the meeting room, the 5-foot-10, 240-pound suspect was tackled by two men and shot in the leg during the scuffle, officials said.
“I wish I killed more of them!” Newell shouted when state Trooper Nicolas De La Iglesia arrived on the scene before 8 p.m., according to the trooper’s affidavit.
Two men died at the scene and the third, Ross Township zoning officer David Fleetwood, died after being flown to Lehigh Valley Medical Center. Fleetwood, 62, also served as a supervisor in nearby Chestnuthill Township, the coroner said.
Officials identified the slain residents as Gerard J. Kozic, 53, and James V. LaGuardia, 64, both of Saylorsburg.
At the hospital an hour later, Newell told police he had gone to the meeting in hopes of finding the township officials in one place.
“He intended to shoot the solicitor and supervisors and thought that he would then be killed,” police said in the affidavit.
Newell was about to fire his .44 Magnum revolver when the township’s parks and recreation director, Bernie Kozen, and resident Mark Kresh wrestled him to the ground, Monroe County Coroner Bob Allen said at a news conference.
“Two very courageous individuals positioned themselves in a way that they were able to jump on this subject as he came through the door,” State Police Lt. Col. George Bivins said. “This could have been much worse.”
The two survivors were released from the hospital, along with Newell.