The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

August 5, 2013

Three shot dead at Pa. town meeting; shooter tackled

Eds: Updates with state police identifying man they say is shooter, discussing possible motive, more details of account from reporter at scene. With AP Photos.

A gunman blasted shots through the wall of a Pennsylvania municipal building during a meeting on Monday and then barged into the meeting room and continued firing, killing three people, before he was tackled by a local official and shot with his own gun, a witness said.

The shooting, which injured at least two other people, happened shortly before 7:30 p.m. during Ross Township's monthly meeting, Monroe County emergency management director Guy Miller said. The gunman, who appeared to be "shooting randomly," was captured and was treated at a hospital, he said.

State police in Lehighton confirmed the three deaths and said the gunman, identified as 59-year-old Rockne Newell, had an ongoing dispute with township officials over the possible condemnation of his unkempt property. They said about 15 to 18 residents and town officials were at the meeting when the gunfire erupted.

The Pocono Record said one of its reporters was at the township building when a man armed with a long gun with a scope shot through a wall into the meeting, in a rural area of northeastern Pennsylvania about 85 miles north of Philadelphia.

Reporter Chris Reber, in a first-person account told to his editors Marta Gouger and Chris Mele, said it was 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," he said. "I heard more than 10 shots."

He said he crawled out to a hallway, exited the building and took cover behind a vehicle.

"The gunman was this guy wearing a blue Hawaiian shirt," he said. "I saw him go back out to his car, a silver Impala, and get another gun.

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