800 police officers honor slain Berrien County bailiff at memorial service

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BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — A father, a friend, a colleague. Joseph Zangaro was at least one of these roles to each of the 1500 people who attended the memorial service celebrating his life. Zangaro was one of two bailiffs tragically killed Monday afternoon during a shooting at the Berrien County courthouse.

“It was very nice for the family to give him the proper send off with his service and sacrifice that he made,” said Capt. Michael Brown with the Michigan State Police. “We just remembered his qualities.”

Capt. Brown spoke at the Celebration of Life service at Lake Michigan College’s Mendel Center. He worked with Zangaro side-by-side and told the crowd — 800 of them being officers — that his work and family were top priorities.

“He had a love for the outdoors he was passing on for his grandkids and that was part of his spirit,” said Capt. Brown. “When we were both troopers he never missed a single one of his family events, which is pretty hard in this line of work.”

Zangaro served with both the Battle Creek Police Department and Michigan State Police for years before becoming a bailiff at the Berrien County courthouse. Police said he was gunned down when inmate Larry Gordon grabbed hold of guard James Atterberry’s gun and began firing shots, killing Zangaro and fellow bailiff Ron Kienzle. Atterberry too was injured in the shooting.

“I’ve been to too many of them in my 23 years in law enforcement,” said Calhoun County Sheriff Matt Saxton about funerals. “We’ve lost over 60 law enforcement officers in this nation already this year, 28 of which have died by firearm [and] violent confrontations.”

Sheriff Saxton said he worked with Zangaro on occasion throughout the years when he was assigned to the Southwest Enforcement Team. He’s regarded as an officer who was committed to his job and serving the community.

“There are from time to time bad incidents that law enforcement [is] involved with and we do take it that seriously,” said Sheriff Saxton. “But 99.9 percent of the time folks in law enforcement are just trying to protect the citizens they serve.”

Colleagues said Zangaro was one of them. He was outstanding person, always willing to help anyone who asked.

“I think I best heard Lt. Dan Latta describe him as he was a cop's cop,” said Sheriff Saxon. “He, no mater how high he rose in rank, he was never better than you.”

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