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Sheriff: Inmate kills 2 bailiffs at Michigan courthouse

  • Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey confirmed that two court bailiffs were shot and killed inside the Berrien County Courthouse in St. Joseph, Mich., before officers killed the gunman today. (Tony Wittkowski/The Herald-Palladium)

  • Police tape surrounded the Berrien County Courthouse today in St. Joseph, Mich. Two bailiffs were fatally shot today inside the courthouse before officers killed the gunman, a sheriff said. (Chelsea Purgahn/Kalamazoo Gazette via AP)

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey addresses the media today in St. Joseph, Mich.

  • MARK PARREN VIA AP

    Sheriff’s deputies work the parameter outside the Berrien County Courthouse after a shooting incident in St. Joseph, Mich., today. A jail inmate trying to escape from the western Michigan courthouse wrested a gun from an officer today, killing a few bailiffs and injuring a few more people before he was fatally shot by other officers, a sheriff said.

  • MARK PARREN VIA AP

    Sheriff’s Deputy Guy Puffer stands watch outside the Berrien County Courthouse after a shooting incident in St. Joseph, Mich., today. A jail inmate trying to escape from the western Michigan courthouse wrested a gun from an officer today, killing a few bailiffs and injuring a few more people before he was fatally shot by other officers, a sheriff said.

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. » A jail inmate trying to escape from a western Michigan courthouse wrested a gun from an officer today, killing two bailiffs and injuring two more people before he was fatally shot by other officers, a sheriff said.

People scrambled for cover inside the Berrien County Courthouse in St. Joseph, a city of about 8,300 people in the southwestern corner of Michigan, about 100 miles northeast of Chicago.

“Our hearts are torn apart. … I have known them for over 30 years. It’s a sad day,” Sheriff Paul Bailey said of the bailiffs.

Larry Darnell Gordon, 44, who was locked up on several felony charges, was being moved from a cell for a courtroom appearance when a fight occurred and he was able to disarm an officer, Bailey said. The sheriff did not say what charges the inmate was facing.

Bailey said it does not appear that Gordon was handcuffed, adding authorities had “no warning signs” that the suspect would be violent.

The inmate shot a sheriff’s deputy, killed the bailiffs and then shot a civilian in the arm in a public area, the sheriff said.

During the incident, Bailey said Gordon took hostages for a short period before trying to leave through another door. The inmate then was fatally shot “by two other bailiffs who came to render aid, along with several other officers,” Bailey said.

“He was trying to escape,” the sheriff said.

Bailey identified the bailiffs killed as Joseph Zangaro, 61, and Ronald Kienzle, 63. He said the longtime law enforcement officers were close friends of his who became court officers after retiring from their departments.

Zangaro was head of court security. He retired from the Michigan State Police as commander of the Bridgman Post in Berrien County. Kienzle retired as a sergeant of the Benton Township police department after serving in the U.S. Army.

Both had been employed by the court for more than a decade.

The injuries suffered by the deputy and the civilian weren’t considered life-threatening. Bailey said the deputy, 41-year-old James Atterberry Jr., had surgery on his arm and is “doing fine.” He said the civilian was a woman who also suffered an arm injury. He did not identify her.

Bailey said the courthouse would be closed on Tuesday.

Gordon’s ex-wife, Jessica Gordon, told WOOD-TV and the Detroit Free Press that he likely was trying escape to see his family. She added that he was “not a monster,” but “an amazing man that got mixed up with the wrong people.”

Jessica Gordon said they divorced earlier this year but he remained close with his 6-year-old daughter. His ex-wife said she spoke with him Sunday and had no indication he was planning an attack.

Gov. Rick Snyder cut short a visit to Midland and traveled across the state to St. Joseph to meet with investigators and victims’ families.

Snyder called it a “terrible day in a wonderful community.”

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    • Gun violence? I have been around weapons for most of my very long life and not once have I seen a weapon act violently, not once. I have seen lots of people act violently, but not one weapon. They really are quite peaceful when left alone.

      • truly spoken words – WEAPONS do not act violently. they are merely tools to handled by a human being. the weak link here is the user of the tool (which is a lifeless, inanimate object).

      • “They really are quite peaceful when left alone.”

        So is meth. So are grenades. So are land mines. So is mustard gas. I’m not an anti gun guy but weak arguments like that don’t help.

  • How does someone get into a courthouse with a gun? When is the violence going to stop. Enough. Don’t we have enough going on with ISIS and other terrorist groups.

        • Need to get locks on guns. Need to lock guns up and keep away from human. Two choice either get rid of guns or get rid of humans. Wait the dumb gun IS getting rid of humans. Lol.

        • needles to say that the nanabooboo comment may be an inane and degenerative statement bordering on the unintelligent, senseless and stoopid – and absolutely NOT funny. to wit, “Wait the dumb gun IS getting rid of humans. Lol.”

        • atilter: I’m sure that once NanakuliBoss untangles that random sample of ill-fitting words, he’ll eat a nice slice of humble pie.

          Or not.

      • What a tragedy. Hopefully the investigation will show how the inmate got the gun away from the sheriff and corrections to procedures and/or practices will be put in place to prevent this from happening again.

  • The prisoner was being transferred when he disarmed his guard and used the weapon to slay the 2 bailiffs. He was later shot dead by officers. 2 posters did not read the article as written?

    • We were responding to an earlier, less complete article hon. This explanation makes sense and this kind of incompetence does happen from time to time. Moving dangerous prisoners around can be very dangerous.

      • then, allie, your comment should have been posted to the earlier less complete version of the article. does that make sense to you? it shows that you really do not read articles for comprehension. you wrote a response based upon a reaction to an earlier less complete version. isn’t that right, allie? pua ting!

  • There was a gun feature invented to fire only if the owner’s special electronic ring was worn. Then the NRA and enthusiasts slammed down on the merchant and threatened him with death. So irrational.

  • Law enforcement personnel are trained, (or should have been trained) to be conscious of weapons retention at all times. This incident is a result of the lack of situational awareness on the part of the officer who lost his weapon. A painful reminder of the hazards of the job that all law enforcement personnel deal with on a daily basis.

  • The killer’s ex-wife stated “He’s not a monster. He likely was trying to escape to see his family.” “An amazing man that got mixed up with the ‘wrong people'”. Excuse me! This guy WAS! a monster!!! Look how many people he injured or killed! Lady, there’s a special place in hell for killers like your ex.

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