SAYLORSBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - An evicted homeowner accused of shooting and killing three people at a town meeting in rural Pennsylvania had 90 rounds of ammunition in his car, police said on Tuesday.
“This could have been much worse,” Lieutenant Colonel George Bevins of the Pennsylvania State Police told a news conference.
Rockne Newell, 59, was being held without bail at Monroe County Correctional Facility after his arraignment on three counts of homicide, one count of attempted homicide and one count of aggravated assault.
Newell was accused of blasting his way into Monday night’s monthly meeting of the Ross Township board of supervisors and firing 28 rounds from a rifle before returning to his car for a .44 Magnum handgun and shooting his way back into the building. He is charged with killing a town zoning official and two local residents.
State police said that as Newell re-entered the building, firing the handgun, town parks official Bernard Kozen wrestled him to the ground with the help of another man, Mark Kresh.
“You took my property!” Newell screamed as he was being tackled, according to an affidavit filed in court.
Newell was shot in the lower leg as the men subdued him, the state police said at the news conference.
Authorities found 90 rounds of ammunition in Newell’s car.
The fatalities were town zoning officer David Fleetwood, 62, and James LaGuardia, 64, and Gerard Kozic, 53, residents of Saylorsburg who were awaiting their turn to conduct business before the board, Monroe County Coroner Robert Allen said.
Kozic’s wife Linda was shot in the leg and another person was injured, state police said.
The court document showed that Newell had been sparring with local officials for more than 17 years over the Ross Township property and property in nearby Hamilton Township. Both are small towns about 90 miles north of Philadelphia.
Newell, who had been evicted from his property in a dispute over sewage, had “specifically targeted the meeting because it was the only time he could get all the township supervisors and the solicitor in a single location,” according to the affidavit.
“He intended to shoot the solicitor and supervisors and thought that he would then be killed during the incident,” the affidavit said.
Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Toni Reinhold