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Accused Town Meeting Gunman: "Town Stole My Home"

Rockne Newell, 59, had lost his property this year in a court fight over complaints that he lived in a storage shed, built an illegal culvert and used a bucket outside as a toilet

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Police say a real estate battle between Ross Township and Rockne Newell had been going on for at least 9 years. NBC10's Deanna Durante obtained a search warrant with details of a 911 call from a woman who said a man walked into the municipal building screaming his property was stolen. (Published Tuesday, Aug 6, 2013)

    A disabled junk dealer feuding with local officials over his debris-strewn property packed a rental car with guns and ammunition before opening fire at a town meeting and killing three men, authorities said Tuesday.

    Rockne Newell, 59, had lost his property this year in a court fight over complaints that he lived in a storage shed, built an illegal culvert and used a bucket outside as a toilet.

    At his arraignment on homicide charges Tuesday morning, a judge asked Newell if he owned any real estate.

    "They stole it from me. That's what started all this,'' he replied.

    Family & Friends Mourn Town Hall Shooting Victims

    [PHI] Family & Friends Mourn Town Hall Shooting Victims
    Gerard "Jerry" Kozic, David Fleetwood and James Laguardia were the three victims who were killed in the town hall shooting at Ross Township Municipal Building. NBC10's Chris Cato talks with family and friends of the victims. (Published Tuesday, Aug 6, 2013)

    Newell allegedly used a Ruger Mini-14 rifle to blast a barrage of gunfire through a wall into the meeting room Monday night in Ross Township, about 85 miles north of Philadelphia, before entering the room and shooting a supervisor and four residents, two of whom survived.

    Newell then retreated to the car and picked up a revolver, authorities said. When he returned to the meeting room, the 5-foot-10, 240-pound suspect was tackled by two men and shot in the leg during the scuffle, officials said.

    Newell Had Quarrel With Township Over Lost Home

    [PHI] Newell Had Quarrel With Township Over Lost Home
    Police say Rockne Newell had been battling Ross Township for more than 9 years over the ownership of his Fleetwood home. The township condemned the property and Newell lost it during a sheriff's sale. NBC10's Deanna Durante reports with the latest. (Published Tuesday, Aug 6, 2013)

    "I wish I killed more of them!'' Newell shouted when state Trooper Nicolas De La Iglesia arrived on the scene before 8 p.m., according to the trooper's affidavit.

    Two men died at the scene and the third, Ross Township zoning officer David Fleetwood, died after being flown to Lehigh Valley Medical Center. Fleetwood, 62, also served as a supervisor in nearby Chestnuthill Township, the coroner said.

    Man Considered Hero After Stopping Gunman

    [PHI] Man Considered Hero After Stopping Gunman
    NBC10's Chris Cato talks with Mark Kresh who police call a hero for his quick actions to subdue the shooter who killed three people inside a Ross Township Municipal Building on Monday. (Published Tuesday, Aug 6, 2013)

    Officials identified the slain residents as Gerard J. Kozic, 53, and James V. LaGuardia, 64, both of Saylorsburg.

    At the hospital an hour later, Newell told police he had gone to the meeting in hopes of finding the township officials in one place.

    Gunman Charged With 3 Counts of Homicide

    [PHI] Gunman Charged With 3 Counts of Homicide
    The town hall shooting suspect, Rockne Newell, has been charged with three counts of homicide, two counts of attempted homicide and two counts of aggravated assault. NBC10's Deanna Durante reports. (Published Tuesday, Aug 6, 2013)

    "He intended to shoot the solicitor and supervisors and thought that he would then be killed,'' police said in the affidavit.

    Newell was about to fire his .44 Magnum revolver when the township's parks and recreation director, Bernie Kozen, and resident Mark Kresh wrestled him to the ground, Monroe County Coroner Bob Allen said at a news conference.

    Gunman Investigation Continues at Municipal Building

    [PHI] Gunman Investigation Continues at Municipal Building
    Investigators remained at the scene of the shooting where a gunman killed three people during a town hall meeting in Saylorsburg, Pa. NBC10's Matt Delucia reports live from the Ross Township Municipal Building. (Published Tuesday, Aug 6, 2013)

    "Two very courageous individuals positioned themselves in a way that they were able to jump on this subject as he came through the door,'' State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said. "This could have been much worse.''

    The two survivors were released from the hospital, along with Newell.

    Why Did Man Open Fire on Town Meeting?

    [PHI] Why Did Man Open Fire on Town Meeting?
    State Police continue to investigate a Ross Township building shooting where investigators say Rockne Newell opened fire on a town meeting. NBC10's Matt DeLucia looks at Newell's Facebook for clues about a possible motive. (Published Tuesday, Aug 6, 2013)

    Terry Doll, who lives near Newell, said he was well-known as a ``kook,'' an intelligent man whose unpredictability stoked fear in some neighbors.

    "When I found out about the shooting, we all looked at each other and said his name,'' said Doll, 58, who has lived in her house for more than 30 years. "We certainly always hoped that he would have never done something like this.''

    Man Opens Fire at Township Meeting

    [PHI] Man Opens Fire at Township Meeting
    Three people died after a Poconos-area resident opened fire during a township meeting in Saylorsburg, Pa. Matt DeLucia reports on the latest. (Published Tuesday, Aug 6, 2013)

    About 15 to 18 people had been at the meeting, including a Pocono Record reporter covering his first Ross Township meeting.

    "The thing that got my attention: plaster flying out, blowing out through the walls. Witnesses would later tell me they saw pictures exploding away from the walls,'' reported Chris Reber said in an account to his editors.

    In June, the newspaper published an article describing an 18-year fight between the township and Newell over his property, which includes an old camper filled with wooden pallets, a leaning garage close to collapse and a propane tank inside an old dog house.

    Township supervisors voted in February 2012 to take legal action against Newell for alleged zoning and sewer regulations. In October, he set up a fundraising page online to try to raise $10,000 for legal fees.

    "Ross township took me to court & the court ruled I have to vacate my home of 20 years,'' Newell wrote on the page. He said he lived on $600 a month in Social Security benefits and had no money to clean his property.

    Newell told the newspaper he was unemployed for years after an injury from a crash and had nowhere else to go.

    Credit: Monroe County Correctional Facility

    The state Department of Environmental Protection had ordered Newell in March to stop dredging on the property and restore the creek.

    "He wasn't happy about the situation, but he was cooperative,'' department spokeswoman Colleen Connolly recalled.

    Newell didn't enter a plea at his arraignment on three homicide counts and two counts each of attempted homicide and aggravated assault. He was given a form for a public defender, but he did not request a lawyer. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Aug. 19.

    Newell's father told WFMZ-TV that his son had been talking about shooting township officials for a while and as recently as Monday. Pete Newell said on the day of the shooting, his son told him he had no reason to live.

    "It's no excuse for murder ... but they pushed him to his point,'' he said of the long battle to evict his son from the property.

    Russell Kresge, a township supervisor who lives down the road from Newell and attended Monday night's meeting, found it difficult to discuss what happened.

    "This is a little township that always ran super,'' he said from his front porch, a friendly Rottweiler by his side. Kresge's wife said the dog could sense something was wrong with her master and was shedding abnormally.