(ROSS TOWNSHIP, Pa.) — Pennsylvania authorities Tuesday praised two “truly heroic” men who tackled a man after he allegedly opened fire at a town supervisors’ meeting Monday night, killing three people and later saying he wished he had “killed more of them,” according to court documents.
Bernie Kozen, who helped subdue suspect Rockne Newell, 59, told officials that during the struggle, the suspect yelled, “You took my property,” followed by an expletive, the documents state.
The documents say that as Newell, who was shot during the encounter, was escorted from the scene for treatment, he said, “I wish I killed more of them.”
Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said at a news conference Tuesday that Kozen and Mark Kresh “are heroes in this whole incident. This could have been much worse, had we not had the quick actions of two individuals who interceded and stopped this.”
Officials have identified Newell as the alleged shooter, who also left three people injured. Police say he had a long-running property dispute with the town.
Newell showed up unexpectedly at the Ross Township, Pa., supervisors’ meeting in a rental car, approached the building from the front and allegedly began firing through a window with a Ruger mini-14 rifle. He passed through an office and moved toward the meeting room, allegedly firing 14 rounds.
There were about 18 people at the meeting, police said.
When he got to the meeting room, he allegedly fired several more rounds. Police said a total of 28 shots were allegedly fired before he left the building, grabbed a 44-Magnum revolver from his car and made his way back to the meeting room.
That was when Kozen and Kresh took what police called life-saving actions.
“They positioned themselves in a way that they were able to jump on the subject as he came through the door,” Bivens said. “They wrestled with him in an attempt to subdue him, even as he was firing rounds.”
Kozen is the director of parks for the township and Kresh is a citizen who was present at the meeting. After the initial struggle, they held Newell down and bound him with clothing.
Police identified the three deceased as Gerard Kozic, David Fleetwood and James Laguardia. Two of the people killed were declared dead on the scene. A third died after being taken to a nearby hospital.
Gerard Kozic’s wife Linda Kozic sustained a leg injury and is in the hospital.
The two other injured were identified as Frank Piraino, who suffered a wound to the head and was released from the hospital, and Howard Beers, who suffered a hand wound and was also released from the hospital.
“At this point, there is no reason to believe that anyone else acted with Mr. Newell,” Bivens said.
Newell is being held at the Monroe County Correctional Facility under charges of criminal homicide. He was arraigned today and is expected to reappear in court within the next 10 days, authorities said.
It’s unclear whether he has a lawyer.
Authorities said the crime scene is secured, as well as a former residence of Newell’s. Investigators discovered Tuesday that Newell had also been using another residence, for which they are in the process of securing search warrants.
When asked about motive and targeting, authorities said Newell was angry about the condemnation of a piece of property and that it appeared that at least the initial gunshots from outside were random and might have become more targeted when he entered the room.
Newell’s property was condemned Thursday, and he hasn’t been in his home since, according to police. He came to the meeting in a car with Texas license plates, police said.
Authorities said they were not aware of any recent prior activity in Newell’s police record. They are aware of one prior arrest in the early 1980s for reckless endangerment, but they did not go into details.
Records show Newell’s handgun was lawfully purchased “some time ago” and authorities are still looking into the rifle, police said.
The shooting occurred at 7:23 p.m., at the Ross Township Building, Monroe County, sheriff’s spokesman Jeff Strunk said.
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