Chris Reber poconorecord.com Three people died Monday night when a gunman opened fire on a Ross Township municipal meeting, indiscriminately shooting into the building, authorities said. Eyewitnesses at the scene and state police identified the gunman as Rockne Newell, a self-proclaimed junk collector who has had a long-simmering feud with the township for keeping a junkyard on his property. Monday night state police were seeking a search warrant from a district judge for Newell's property, according to Trooper First Class Michael Sniscak. As of 11 p.m., however, there was a delay in returning to his property, authorities said. Fearful that his property might be booby-trapped, police said that they might bring in bomb-sniffing dogs as a precaution. A meeting attendee tackled Newell, who was shot with his own gun, according to witnesses. Pocono Record reporter Chris Reber, who was attending a Ross Township meeting for the first time, described hearing at least 10 shots. He described plaster flying out, blowing out through the walls. Witnesses would later tell him they saw pictures exploding away from the wall. Resident Betty Broad said, "First we jumped up. Patricia was pushing on me. I was starting to turn to see what was going on when someone took the big round table and protected us. Nothing can prepare you "»" Secretary Treasurer Doris Price said, "No one wanted to move. Everyone was hiding." Reber, who had escaped the meeting room to take cover behind an SUV in the parking lot, said the gunman emptied his first weapon and that he saw the gunman go to his car to retrieve a second weapon. Police said Monday night that Newell had two weapons. Newell was outside, firing into the meeting room, where about 15 people had gathered. "I had view of Rockne coming in. I saw Bernie (Kozen) struggling with him. Bernie got the gun and shot him in the leg twice," Ross Township Supervisor Tina Drake said. West End Park and Open Space Commission Executive Director Bernie Kozen was sitting on the side of the room. He described his actions to subdue the shooter: "When he came back in, he didn't see me. I guess he was hellbent on "»" His voice trailed off. "I was working on Dave Fleetwood and he walked by me into the meeting room, I guess to shoot more people," Kozen said. "That's when I came up behind him and wrestled the gun from him with the help of Mr. Kresh." Drake said Kresh helped to hold the shooter down. She said she was behind Solicitor John Dunn, two women and three men. Cleoria Campodonico was also at the meeting. "I'll never get those images out of my head. Those poor, innocent people," she said. "David Fleetwood pushed me out of the way and got shot twice in the belly." Township supervisor Howard Beers' daughter, Alissa Rutt, got a call from her dad. He said, "Just listen to what I have to say. No matter what you hear, I'm ok." She then called her sister, who was on her way to the scene. Her girlfriends had gotten news alerts on their cell phones. She spotted her dad and was allowed past the barricade. They hugged each other. The identities of the victims was not available at 11 p.m. Monroe County Coroner Bob Allen described the fatalities as three men. Two were dead on the scene and one died after being taken by a medical helicopter, Allen said. One remained in surgery at 11:30 p.m., according to state police. The man identified by witnesses and police as the gunman — Rockne Newell — has had a long-running feud with the township. He got a building permit from the township to have a storage structure on the property, but then built a dwelling without first getting a zoning permit or certificate of occupancy from the township. Over the years, authorities have responded to Newell's property as a result of neighbor complaints and on one occasion in 2009 found human fecal matter in buckets there, according to previous reports in the Pocono Record. The township determined he was improperly disposing of sewage with no septic system or permit for one. In a previous article, Newell said he couldn't afford septic hookup fees. "If I lose this property, I have nowhere else to go," Newell told the Pocono Record in June. "What they're doing to me, what they've been doing to me for so long, it's wrong." The outbreak of violence in this West End Monroe County community stands in stark contrast to its quiet, rural character. The meeting was winding down at 7:23 p.m. when the shooting broke out. Witnesses described a scene of carnage and chaos following the shooting at the Anchorage Road building. "There were real heroes here," Reber said. "People who did not consider their own lives in protecting others."
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