In every press conference he has conducted, a stalwart Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey has expressed heart break over the loss of two long time friends in a courthouse attack yesterday at the Berrien County Courthouse. Berrien County Court Bailiffs Joe Zangaro and Ronald Kienzle were shot to death by an inmate who overpowered Berrien County Sheriff’s Deputy James Aterberry Jr. who was wounded in the attack. Other officers returned fire later and killed the attacker, identified as Larry Darnell Gordon of Coloma.
Early reports had indicated that Gordon had not been handcuffed, however that has since been proven incorrect, but he was successful in gaining Aterberry’s weapon and killed the two retired veteran police officers serving as bailiffs.
Bailey’s grief is shared by many, as found in Facebook posts throughout the day and night. Here are the posts that I shared on the air this morning on Moody in the Morning:
Deniece Fisher, former St. Joseph Police Officer: RIP Ron and Joe! Thank you for your service. You will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with your families in this difficult time. #sjstrong #prayforberriencounty #prayforstjoseph I WILL NOT POST A PICTURE OF THE INDIVIDUAL THAT MURDERED OUR FRIENDS.
Marta Elliott of UFCU: My husband left the courthouse only hours before the shooting and had spoken with both deceased bailiffs, long-time acquaintances, this morning . My older daughter Katie, fortunately, had the day off from her summer job in the Prosecutor’ s office, which is a blessing as she is often sitting with victims in a courtroom. Thankful they are safe but broken-hearted for the families of the victims. Both good men and highly regarded by all who knew them.
Allan Volker, Benton Harbor Police Officer: It is always painful when a LEO loses his life in the line of duty, but it is a bit more painful when it happens in your area to good people you know. Prayers to the families and to my Law Enforcement family. Sad, sad day in Berrien County.
Diane Mensinger: Thank you for all of your prayers and concerns. My heart is breaking for the families of our bailiffs. Please continue to pray for their famililes and for the courthouse staff. It has been a difficult day.
Chris Siriano: It’s an extremely sad day for our beautiful city and my heart hurts for all of those that lost a loved one at the courthouse shootings today. I’m confused as to an answer to what’s happening in our country but I feel like rather than celebrate so many meaningless holidays why don’t we have a National Friendship Day or a National Love Thy Neighbor Day and let’s ALL go out and shake hands, hug someone we don’t know, invite a family over for dinner that you’ve never met, make them holidays of mixing our dinner tables and our homes with people of all colors, opening our hearts and minds to new friendships that may possibly help heal this nation from the hurt and confusion that we are all in…
Scott Igert: Finally got the whole story on today’s events at the courthouse.One I had the pleasure of working with for many years, thru the thick and thin, you were always there. It was a great pleasure. God Speed. One Riot, One Ranger. One I never worked directly with, but had the pleasure of getting to know when I was at court. God Speed. Berrien County Law Enforcement lost two of our family members with a third injured today. You will not be forgotten.
Mike Hildebrand, Supervisor of Oronoko Township: God have mercy on our country. When “too close to home” IS home, when you know the people speaking at the microphone, when you know the families of the deceased….pray for peace.
Shelly Klug, Cornerstone Alliance: Our hearts are hurting… When you can’t drive home because the roads are blocked off around the courthouse, when you know everyone at the press conference, when you check in with your friends who work there…then you realize how very close and personal the violence has come…
Nicole Yarbrough: Before the media has anyone’s eyes glazed over from their sensationalism: The shooting today at Berrien County Courthouse had absolutely nothing to do with what the national headlines have been. Nothing. The shooter would have killed his own grandmother if that meant trying to flee that jail/courthouse. The shooter was biracial. His victims were black & white. (Only stating for those interested & attempting to make this political) Pray for all those involved…but pleading out of respect for the victims & families in our communities of Benton Harbor & St. Joseph…don’t look for what’s not there.
Alexandra Michelle: As a state employee working in Berrien County, I am so happy that my co workers and I are safe. As a daughter of a police officer in Berrien County, I feel so honored that I have a dad who risks his life to protect others. Please pray for everyone involved. Such a sad day in Berrien County
Sue Akens: I am heartbroken. My department made it out of the Courthouse safely but apparently two friends did not. We were told to evacuate after shots fired and literally ran for our lives. I have never been so scared in my life. At the same time have never been so proud of law enforcement. Just like in Dallas last Friday and countless other times they were running in while we were running out. Please keep them in your prayers and support them. We do not stand a chance without them. Thanks to all of you and please stay safe!!! Also want to thank all the friends and relatives who called and texted wanting to make sure I was okay. I love all of you.
Bob Getz, President of Village of Baroda: Please pray for the bailiffs killed in the Berrien County court house shooting this afternoon. It has hit very close to home. I hope their families can find some kind of peace. Being a past reserve officer it hits very hard.
Al Pscholka, State Rep: Join us tomorrow afternoon as honor law enforcement by walking from the Berrien County Courthouse to the Law Enforcement Memorial in Lake Bluff Park in St. Joseph. Be at the Courthouse at 2 p.m. Support the Blue and Brown. Thanks.
Paul Layendecker, Mid-West Family Broadcasting: I am deeply saddened by the loss of two great retired police officers/bailiffs today. How senseless. I am so proud to stand behind ALL police officers and public officials. I am especially proud of my friend Sheriff Paul Bailey. Pray for all in uniform! God protect them as they protect us. Amen.
Glenn Peters: Just sitting here stunned, you never realize how much impact someone had on your life and how much fun you had with them until their life is cut short by a bullet. Pray for Berrien County!
Vicki Page, retired owner of Vicki’s Sandbar: The innocence of the beautiful hometown I’ve grown up in was shattered today. Our community has lost men who gave their lives protecting us. My heart is torn shredded over the loss of a great friend whom I’ve known my whole life. RIP RON … your won’t be forgotten ever, we have some great stories we share over the years. I’m a better person just for being able to call you my friend….
Rachel Wade/United Way: I’m so sad and confused. What happens next? How do we process this, as a community?
Governor Rick Snyder: This is a difficult time and I encourage everyone to reach out and be supportive of the law enforcement community in Michigan and across our country. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the wounded and the families of the law enforcement officials.
Kyle Ender: Our community is in shock… nobody asked for this. It’s not the guns fault. Officer Bailey is a stand up man who is very well respected and does one hell of a job! Its nobodys fault…wrong place at the wrong time. We will perservere….SW MI WILL perservere… just a couple days ago we mourned the law enforcement officers that lost their lives in the Texas shooting. Our sherrifs department came together and put up an awesome display demonstrating our communities condolences. Today we mourn the loss of our very own… 2 brave heroes who died doing what they love. Please pray for their families… we will prevail SW Mi!!! God bless us all!
Kerry Cressler: My heart is heavy tonight after learning that one of the bailiffs shot was a client of mine. I just seen Joe and his wife at Meijer recently and joke about him going back to work after being retired. Joe was such a nice man and a pleasure to work with. My prayers are with his family tonight. What a tragedy…………..
Scott Dienes, Attorney: Two long time public servants and men I’m glad to have known. Joe was an avid bird hunter and always had a good story to tell me about a recent trip or his dog. I knew him since I first got out of law school. He was a trooper at the Bridgman post and wanted to help me learn to be a prosecutor the right way. Ron was with Benton Twp PD when I first met him. When he started with the county, he was always glad to help me process a file and navigate the courthouse. True class acts that our community lost today. Let’s never forget just how dangerous courtrooms are every day. Mark Coulston and Sue Bancroft thank you for your service.
Gail Bruce (wife of Judge Gary Bruce): Our community is indeed rocked by this tragic event. So many people are holding the families of those lost or injured in our thoughts. Prayers of gratitude for all of the lives protected. The flag flies half staff tonight along the bluff in our beautiful and resilient city.
Judge Donna Howard: Getting on FB briefly to let you all know I am safely home from the courthouse. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers of support throughout the afternoon. Tragic day for my work family and our community. I am without sufficient words at this moment so won’t even try. I ask that your thoughts and prayers continue for the victims, law enforcement, and the heroes who quickly and unselfishly responded to prevent more injuries and loss of life.
Brad Gorman of Whirlpool: Grateful for all of our helpers through challenging times, especially some of the unsung heroes in the local media. News Talk 94.9 WSJM and The Herald-Palladium did an incredible job today of delivering challenging, heartbreaking news in a timely, credible way. Local friends: please join in walking tomorrow at 2pm from the courthouse to the Berrien County Law Enforcement Memorial to honor law enforcement and the lives lost today.
Matt Siemans: He lived down the street. His daughters babysat me. He gave my parents a hard time the first time they went out socially after having me because their daughter was over too late, even though he was four houses away. He could have pulled you over, yet could have been the friendly neighbor waiting to say hi as you walked down the street. Kalamazoo, Orlando, St. Joseph. Three cities I have spent ample time in. Three incredibly horrible events. I’m pissed. I’m sad. I’m almost getting numb. Keeping the Zangaro family in my thoughts and prayers tonight. How long does the list have to get that God has to listen to? #whereisthelove
Larry Cushman: St. Joe is my hometown where I grew up and became the man that I am. Myself and my brothers and sisters here from the Louisville Metro Police and St. Matthews Police, Kentucky, are again grieving tonight for the loss of two more brothers and one critically injured from the Berrien County Sheriffs Department today. I, and more than 1300 officers here send our prayers, support, and thoughts to the grieving families, the Berrien County Sheriffs Department, and to my hometown of St. Joseph, Michigan, tonight. God speed to the heroic deputies that made the ultimate sacrifice and to the speedy recovery of the injured deputy. May God bless you all.
Dan McGinnis/BHPD: The Blue Line:
Being shot at during the 2003 riots… CHECK;
Having cop friends turn to alcohol and suffer broken relationships because of baring other people’s burdens…CHECK;
Having one of my best friends in Blue commit suicide… CHECK;
Being attacked by liberal social agendas that demonize police work and make it more dangerous for cops across the nation…CHECK;
Blue friend and mentor murdered in the line of duty…CHECK;
Lauren Baker: I’m sorry, I can’t keep up with the texts, calls, and messages. You truly have no idea how to feel when something like this happens. We didn’t lose co-workers, we lost family… Ron and I grew a special bond… one I will always cherish… he was the greatest guy, and words really do not do him justice. He made me laugh every single day. He had my back on everything, and his stories I will never forget. He had so much pride and honor in his life, family, and career. He was a hero… a dear friend I will miss so much. Joe was a leader, an amazing guy that cared so deeply for our safety, and the public’s safety. He was also a man of honor. I will forever be grateful for the time spent with him. He taught me what it is to be a successful leader.
My heart is absolutely broken. You don’t think things like this can happen where you grew up, where you work, in your town.. so you can’t prepare yourself. Words also cannot express the tragedies we feel, the loss, the heartache, the confusion. I keep hoping I’ll wake up and this will all be a bad dream… I hope this gets easier. If I could ask for any help, it’d be that our community comes together… show your support for these men and their families… remember these men were heroes. Plain and simple. They were our family. I will miss them every day. Thank you for all the prayers.
Attorney Jack Struwin: It’s with a heavy heart that I add my condolences to the families of Joe Zangaro and Ron Kienzle, the two Berrien County Bailiffs that heroically gave their lives today in an attempt to subdue an immate at the Berrien County Courthouse and protect all who were present on the 3rd floor of the Courthouse today. I knew both Joe and Ron quite well and respected them not only for their professionalism but they were good and decent human beings. I was in Judge LaSata’s courtroom this afternoon where Ron was the Bailiff. I saw the Deputy bring the inmate into the courtroom where he sat for a few minutes before being removed from the courtroom by the Deputy, without addressing the Judge. Moments later, I heard a loud scuffle just outside the courtroom in the area where the Deputy and inmate had just left. Immediately, I saw Ron rush to that area where the noise was coming from. Moments after I saw Ron exit the courtroom, I heard at least 3 shots, and every one in the courtroom was in shock and was moving for cover. Someone shouted for us all to leave and those of us in the courtroom exited as quickly as possible. It was later that I learned that both Joe and Ron had been killed by this inmate who also was killed. I don’t know the whole story yet. I understand that there was a brief hostage situation. I know that a civilian was also injured. I saw other Court Officers that I know and respect coming to assist putting themselves in harms way and I shared in the grieving of so many of the employees of the Courthouse who knew Joe and Ron as I did trying to make sense of this tragic event. Please pray for the families of Joe Zangaro and Ron Kienzle and those who have been affected by this horrific event.
Lori Brown, wife of State Trooper Mike Brown: Still trying to wrap my head around today’s events. How is our little town on national news? Thinking of the victims and their families. Joe Zangaro was Mike’s former coworker and friend. He was the nicest person you’d ever meet. It breaks my heart to know he survived approx 30 years of being an officer only to be taken down in his retirement job in a seemingly “safer” environment. And I watched Mike turn off all emotion and switch into work mode, knowing he had to head over there and deal with it first hand. I will never understand why people who are in trouble themselves feel the need to take other lives on their way down. It’s just a sad situation. I’m just sad.
Bridgman Police Chief Dan Unruh: I’m drained & hurting like a lot of us…. sorry I haven’t been able to answer calls, texts & messages from friends, family & colleagues. Still trying to wrap my head & heart around this senseless tragedy that took 2 great guys from us today…….sick, angry, hurt….. thanks for everyone’s concerns. RIP Ron & Joe.
Tim Dunaj, First Robotics Instructor: No way around it. Today was a crappy day, in St. Joseph. I chose to believe that somehow all the stupidity and idiocy, of the world, could not touch the town I call home. I was SO VERY WRONG. I do not understand the human race, anymore. Everyone wants to share compassion and be supportive AFTER a tragedy. But, less and less people will share that same compassion to avoid terrible tragedies. I am disappointed that halfway through my life span the tragedies that happened today have become way too common. I am literally numb. Our family has a standard evening ritual of driving downtown St. Joe. We go past the beach and watch the sunset into the waves. It is aways a relaxing, peaceful way to end the day. Tonight the sun had already set before we went downtown and the town was aleady changed. Two public servants have perished and their families are left with questions and grief. The beach was not calming to me. I could not stop thinking about the families, the weary policeman, and an unsettled community. In the parking lot, of the Berrien County Courthouse, sit two vehicles that were driven to work this morning. It was a beautiful, sunny day as these two gentlemen entered the courthouse. They were doing their part to serve the public. I am certain they had plans to enjoy the beautiful day, after their shift was done. It is incredibly sad that the two men did not walk back out of the courthouse. They did not get to partake in whatever plans they may have had, for the remainder of the day. The lives of their family and friends have been turned upside down. Yet, all we have left is a world full of regret, grief, anger, frustration, and two empty vehicles to remind us of what was lost. There are no politics here and there is no statement. This post is just a way for me to process “what the hell happened”, in my town, today. I will toss and turn tonight. I will most likely not get much sleep. I will wake tomorrow and continue with my life, but every time something like this happens it takes away some of my soul. It was a crappy day!
Judge Charles Lasata: I am ok but deeply saddened by the tragic events this afternoon. Two very brave Court Officers are gone. Things will never be the same. My family’s prayers are with the families of the two heroes that protected us today.
Berrien County Clerk Sharon Tyler: Today I lost two friends and colleagues. I’m in complete shock. I would ask everyone put them and their families in your prayers. Prayers to all at the courthouse today. Sending prayers and hugs.
Brian Elsner (neighbor to Ron Kienzle): Sending prayers to everyone effected by today’s tragedy. Ronald Kienzle has been my neighbor for many years and was always a pleasure to have in the neighborhood and I felt safer having him around. I saw him every single day either walking his dog or working in the yard. Our community lost some good ones today. Such a shame.
John Briney: As I look through the old and new photos of my friends, I remember all the great times we had together from working the mean streets to riding motorcycles, and a few FOP and Babes outings. I am stunned, and still trying to wrap my head around this tragedy. All I can do now is pray for the families of my brothers killed senselessly and try to concentrate on the many many good times and good deeds my friends did over the last 30 plus years I have known them. Rest in peace brothers Joe Zangaro and Ronald Kienzle. Heaven has a special place for you two heroes. Godspeed.
Al Pscholka: Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the two sheriff’s bailiffs who were slain in this senseless act of violence. We hope for a speedy recovery for the deputy and others who also were injured during this tragedy.
The men and women who work in our court system and in law enforcement put their lives on the line every time they go into work. We are in a very difficult time across America right now, and this is hitting very close to home. I have faith our local law enforcement officials will sort out the details involved in the shooting in the hours and days to come.