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Police: 3 dead in shooting at municipal meeting in Poconos

By Jamie Peter, WFMZ.com Reporter, JPeter@wfmz.com
69 News, follow: @69news, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Aug 05 2013 07:13:04 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 05 2013 07:10:00 PM CDT

Man arrested for shooting 3

ROSS TWP., Pa. -

Three people died after a gunman opened fire at a municipal meeting Monday night in the Poconos.

Pennsylvania State Police report two people died at the scene -- the Ross Township municipal building at 7750 Anchorage Rd.-- and one other later died at St. Luke's Hospital, Lehigh Co.

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Rockne Newell, 59, of 293 Flyte Road, Ross Twp., fired shots from a long gun into the building's windows at 7:15 p.m. during the township's board meeting, police said.

The deceased were identified as 64-year-old James V. LaGuardia and 53-year-old Gerard J. Kozic, both of Saylorsburg, according to Monroe County Coroner Bob Allen.

Lehigh County Coroner Scott Grim said one victim flown to St. Luke's but died shortly after arriving at the hospital.

The third victim was identified as 62-year-old David Fleetwood of Saylorsburg. He was a Ross Twp. zoning officer.

He died of a gunshot wound to the body, and his death was ruled a homicide.

An autopsy will be performed Wednesday.

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Fifteen to 18 people were inside at the time of the shooting.

After shooting at the building from the outside, Newell entered the building and continued shooting, police said. He eventually left the building, returned to his vehicle and got a handgun. He came inside and began firing again, police said.

According to court papers, state police quoted Newell as saying, "I wish I killed more of them!"

Police say Newell was involved in an ongoing dispute over his property with township officials.

There was nothing specific about this property on Monday night's agenda, police said.

In an interview, Newell told police that he targeted the meeting because it was the only time he could get all of the township supervisors and the solicitor in a single location. He told police he intended to shoot the solicitor and supervisors, and thought he would then be killed during the incident.

Two people -- township resident Mark Kresh and Bernard Kozen, director of the parks department -- were attending the meeting. They saw Newell return to the building with a handgun, but tackled Newell to the ground and held him down until police arrived, police said..

Kozen told police during the struggle he shot Newell in the leg with Newell's gun.

"It's certainly courageous what they did. They absolutely would have saved lives. He was entering the building again with a handgun and certainly his intent had been shown that he wanted to harm the people. Certainly, if they had not done that he would have killed or injured other people," said Lt. Robert Bartal, Pennsylvania State Police Troop N.

In addition to the three killed, three others were wounded, officials said.

Frank Piraino Jr., 61, suffered a graze wound to the head and was treated and released.

Linda Kozic, 55, suffered a leg wound. Her husband Gerard was one of the homicide victims.

A Ross Twp. supervisor -- 55-year-old Howard Beers-- also suffered a hand wound, police said.

Police confirm Newell was also treated and released just before 10:30 p.m.

He was arrested and taken to the Monroe County Correctional Facility.

Newell is charged with criminal homicide, attempted criminal homicide, and aggravated assault.

David Sanko, executive director of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, released the following statement on the Aug. 5 shooting in Ross Township, Monroe County:

“Local officials have long been called the foot soldiers of democracy. They are on the front lines, protecting their communities and the health and safety of their residents. Sometimes, the front line is a dangerous place. Tonight is one of those nights. Danger, while rare, is at times the price of public service. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”

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