A shooting during a town hall meeting in northeastern Pennsylvania has left four three people dead and two others are in critical condition, according to local media reports.
“All I saw was the holes go through the hall,” said Pocono Record reporter Chris Reber, who was at the meeting in the Ross Township municipal building. “I saw smoke and plaster flying out, blowing out through the walls.”
“I was the only person who crawled out. Everyone got behind a table. Some of the supervisors were over on the side throwing up.”
The shooter had a pistol with a scope and starting shooting through the walls. He shot several people and then went to his car to retrieve another weapon.
The gunman was reportedly shot in the leg with his own weapon after being tackled by West End Open Space Commission Executive Director Bernie Kozen. The shooter was taken into custody when police arrived.
Two of the victims were pronounced dead at the scene. Two others died after being transported to hospitals. Two other people were injured.
Police have identified the gunman as 59-year-old Rockne Warren Newell. His property had recently been seized by the county sheriff.
Newell had an 18-year-long dispute with the Ross Township Board of Supervisors over the condition of his property. Newell, a self-proclaimed junk collector, was ordered in 2012 to clean and vacate his property unless he obtained various permits.
“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 on the website Give Forward in 2012.
Newell had been living in his car and in abandoned buildings since being forced out of his home.
“They have no right to kick me off my property. They call my property an ‘eyesore.’ When I bought it, it was one of only three properties on the entire road that didn’t have what they call ‘junk,’” he told the Pocono Record in June.
On his Facebook page, Newell said he voted for President Barack Obama but was upset with his administration, citing the President’s failure to close down Guantanamo Bay and the continuing federal crack down on medical marijuana. He also posted an image on his page in support of the Second Amendment, along with a lengthy note opposing gun control. On his Twitter page, he tweeted in support of a petition to “eliminate armed guards for the President, Vice-President, and their families, and establish Gun Free Zones around them.”
In a comment at Mother Jones last year, Newell wrote: “if you bring an AR15 to a public meeting & parade around with it you should go to jail I believe in the second amendment, but there is a difference between the second amendment & terrorizing people!”
Update, 7:03 a.m. EST:WNEP-TV reported early Tuesday morning that police initially listed one victim as dead, but later said she was in surgery. The story has been updated.
Update, 2:41 p.m. EST: Pennsylvania state police said on Tuesday that the gunman tried to get back into the building to resume his attack but was stopped by two individuals.
“They wrestled with him in an attempt to subdue him, even while he was firing rounds from that .44 Magnum revolver,” Lt. Col. George Bivens said in a press conference. “They ultimately were able to subdue him on the floor.”
NBC News identified the second person to help stop Newell as Mark Kresh. WCAU-TV reported that the three victims killed in the attack were identified by police as 62-year-old David Fleetwood, 53-year-old Gerard Kozic and 64-year-old James LaGuardia.
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