Remembering the Berrien County courthouse shooting
BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. -- The one year anniversary of the Berrien County Courthouse shooting has brought some sadness to the community, but it is also a reminder of the resiliency of the people who came together after the tragedy.
On July 11, 2016, a handcuffed Larry Gordon grabbed Deputy James Atterberry's firearm out of his holster while in courtroom 315, shot Atterberry, then shot and killed bailiff Ronald Kienzle and Chief of Courthouse Security Joseph Zangaro.
While attempting to flee, Gordon took several people hostage, and held one hostage in front of his body as a shield.
When he was confronted by two other bailiffs in a public corridor, he exchanged gunfire.
One of the bullets fired by one of the bailiffs struck the hostage.
Gordon was shot twice and died at the scene.
After the shooting, Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey held a press conference.
“I’m going to try to get through this. I lost some friends today, so I’m here with a heavy heart," Bailey said. “A person has shot two bailiffs. They’re both deceased. The suspect has been shot and killed. Our hearts are torn apart. They were our friends. They were my colleagues. I’ve known them for over 30 years.”
A witness spoke with ABC57 right after the shooting.
“My wife and daughter went up to the fourth floor. Next thing I know I see people evacuate, tell me to get out of here. There’s gunfire," he said.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder went to the scene.
“I just wanted to be here to support a terrible day in a wonderful community," Snyder said.
The following day, the community started to come to terms with the tragedy.
Duane Seats, Benton Harbor Mayor Pro- tem
“He was a friend, he made life better," Duane Seats, the Benton Harbor Mayor Pro-tem said the day after the shooting.
Friendships were memorialized through several vigils.
“We were proud of him, for everything he had done for our community," said Ed Swenka, Kienzle's neighbor. “I’m going to miss him being my neighbor, I mean, me and him were real tight.”
Although sadness still lingered, gratitude for the price Zangaro and Kienzle paid burned brighter than the many candles lit in their honor.
Thousands of people attended the funerals for Joe Zangaro and Ronald Kienzle.
Now they're remembered as heroes of the county. Although many say their absence is still felt.