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August 6, 2013

Three shot dead at Pa. town meeting

Shooter tackled, shot with own gun

A gunman blasted shots through the wall of a Pennsylvania municipal building during a meeting on Monday and then barged into the meeting room and continued firing, killing three people, before he was tackled by a local official and shot with his own gun, a witness said.

The shooting, which injured at least two other people, happened shortly before 7:30 p.m. during Ross Township’s monthly meeting, Monroe County emergency management director Guy Miller said. The gunman, who appeared to be “shooting randomly,” was captured and was treated at a hospital, he said.

State police in Lehighton confirmed the three deaths and said the gunman, identified as 59-year-old Rockne Newell, had an ongoing dispute with township officials over the possible condemnation of his unkempt property. They said about 15 to 18 residents and town officials were at the meeting when the gunfire erupted.

The Pocono Record said one of its reporters was at the township building when a man armed with a long gun with a scope shot through a wall into the meeting, in a rural area of northeastern Pennsylvania about 85 miles north of Philadelphia.

Reporter Chris Reber said it was his first Ross Township meeting.

He said he crawled out to a hallway, exited the building and took cover behind a vehicle.

“The gunman was this guy wearing a blue Hawaiian shirt,” he said. “I saw him go back out to his car, a silver Impala, and get another gun.

“It wasn’t real to me until I went back inside and saw people bleeding.”

A local official at the meeting grabbed the shooter and subdued him, Reber said.

“(West End Open Space Commission executive director) Bernie Kozen bear-hugged the gunman and took him down,” Reber said. “He shot the shooter with his own gun.”

Rep. Matt Cartwright, who represents the state’s 17th District, said he was “stunned and appalled at the atrocities that claimed the lives of innocent citizens in Ross Township.” He said he had heard about what Kozen did to prevent more bloodshed.

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