Judge recalls chaos, heroism in Berrien County shooting

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ST. JOSEPH, Mich. — Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey said his department was familiar with Larry Gordon before Monday's shooting. Bailey said Gordon was never combative and was always cooperative. However, they say that all changed on Monday when Gordon disarmed a deputy and killed two court officers.

Now hearts are heavy in the community as it mourns the deaths of court officers Joe Zangaro and Ron Kienzle. Bailey said the support nationwide has been tremendous.

"This is a great community. I have received over 500 emails," the sheriff said. "My phone is full from people calling to say that they’re with us and that they’re praying for us."

Bailey described the officers as his close friends.

"It was hard to sleep," he said. "My prayers go out to the officers' families, and we will continue to pray for healing."

The sheriff said Gordon was handcuffed with his hands in front of him, as deputy James Atterberry escorted him from the courtroom to a holding cell. But Gordon, who faced a domestic violence charge, managed to take Atterberry's gun and then shot the deputy three times.

The domestic violence hearing was held in Judge Charles Lasata's courtroom. Lasata told FOX 17 that he pushed the panic button after hearing shouting in the corridor.

"Then I heard the scuffle. You could hear not pounding on the wall, but bodies bouncing off the wall," Lasata recalled. "That's when I looked at Ron and Ron jumped up and ran across the floor... and headed to the door getting ready to draw his weapon."

That would be the last time Lasata would see his bailiff, Ron Kienzle, alive. The sheriff said Gordon also killed officer Joe Zangaro. Those are two men Lasata knew for 12 years. The chaos continued.

Lasata recalled, "The shooter was trying to kick in the door to my chambers. I don't think to get at me, but I think to escape, try to escape the building. He just was confused and didn't know how to get out. But I could hear him kicking the door and shortly thereafter I heard the shots of the other bailiffs arriving and subduing him."

Bailey said two officers took Gordon down.

"Those bailiffs were heroes like the other officers in that courtroom. They ran to where shots were being fired, and this could’ve been a lot worse without them being so brave to go into the gunfire and take this person down," Bailey said.

Lasata he had dismissed the domestic violence charge because the prosecutor decided not to pursue the misdemeanor count. Instead, Gordon had several other felony charges he was facing. That includes sexual assault and kidnapping.

The courthouse was closed today. Undersheriff Chuck Heit said it will be open tomorrow for employees only. He said grief counselors are being made available for employees to speak with.

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