Rockne Newell allegedly stormed into a municipal meeting in his rural Pennsylvania town last night and shot three people to death, including at least one town official. The rampage in the town of Ross blew holes through walls and sent people crawling for cover. The chaos stopped after the gunman was tackled to the floor by a local official. Newell’s bloody attack was fueled by revenge triggered by a long-winded property dispute that forced him to vacate his junk-infested home. The gunman has been charged with three counts of homicide, two counts of attempted homicide and two counts of aggravated assault.
Here is what you need to know about this bizarre and tragic case.
1. Newell Wanted to ‘Kill More’ People
As he was being transported to the hospital, Newell gave the unsolicited statement, “I wish I killed more of them,” according to court papers. He fired more than two dozen shots from three different spots with his rifle before grabbing a handgun.Three people are now confirmed dead, according to Monroe County Coroner Bob Allen. And at least three are in critical condition.
2. He Was Angry Because Officials Kicked Him Out of His Property
Newell’s outburst was sparked by the fact officials ousted him from his decrepit property. Newell had been involved in an 18-year fight with the township over his property’s living conditions. The “ramshackle, trash-filled property” had a larges number of visibly cluttered items, including tires, cinderblocks and piles of lumber. Newell said he collected and used items other people throw away, which is cheaper than buying items in stores, and scraps and sells what he doesn’t use. The state seized it to clean it up and remove what it calls a “stream obstruction.”
At the arraignment, a judge asked Newell if he owned any real estate and he responded: “They stole it from me. That’s what started all this.”
3. He Opened Fire Through the Windows of the Building and Made His Way Inside
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According to police, Newell opened fire through the windows of the building and then walked inside where 15 to 18 members of the township supervisor council as well as attendees were inside.
4. He Left the Building and Then Came Back to Continue His Rampage
Police say Newell continued to fire his long gun as he made his way through. He then allegedly left the building and returned to the parking lot where he retrieved a hand gun and began shooting again as he came back into the building. That’s when someone intervened.
5. He Was Shot with His Own Gun
Bernie Kozen — the West End Open Space Commission Executive Director — “bearhugged” Newell and took him down. He then shot the shooter in the leg with his own gun.
6. He Lived in Abandoned Buildings & Out of His Car
Monroe County Court in August 2012 sided with the township and ordered Newell to vacate and never again occupy or use the property unless he had the permits to do so. The report said Newell had been living out of a car, a 1984 Pontiac Fiero, and in abandoned buildings since being ordered to vacate. In an interview with local news earlier this year, Newell said the state’s decision that forced him out of his property was “total horse sh*t.”
7. Newell Posted About Guns and His ‘Pet Bear’ on His Facebook Account
Rockne was an avid Facebooker. With a profile picture of his “pet bear”, he regularly posted about his political beliefs as well as his support of the second amendment. He also posted about supporting “healthier food,” publishing pictured of free range chickens taken with his phone. One of his more lengthy status updates includes the following:
I stand for the Second Amendment, you can have your sheep herders God! most of the Bombings of civilian’s in the 20-21 century have been over God! he who can Murder more people in the name of their God wins! if there was a God do you think he, she, it would stand for it? after all a God could do his own killings! the only other explanation is your God is as insane as some of his followers! so if you pray, pray its the former rather then the latter! I stand for the Second Amendment, you can have your sheep herders God! most of the Bombings of civilian’s in the 20-21 century have been over God! he who can Murder more people in the name of their God wins! if there was a God do you think he, she, it would stand for it? after all a God could do his own killings! the only other explanation is your God is as insane as some of his followers! so if you pray, pray its the former rather then the latter!
He also posted this photo along with the caption, “I love it.”
8. He Posted About His Property Dispute
Newell openly addressed his property dispute on his social media page. Last October, Newell set up a fundraising page online and was trying to raise $10,000 to pay for legal fees in his fight with the township.
9. One Reporter Published His First Hand Account of the Tragedy, ‘All I saw was holes go through the wall’
Chris Reber was in the room when Newell entered, guns ablaze. His account was published in the local newspaper, Pocono Record. Read it below:
It was my first Ross Township board meeting. I had gone earlier Monday to the township hall to check on the agenda.
The clerk there gave me an earful about how the previous reporter would call the day after the meetings to get caught up, so I decided that, as the new West End reporter, I would show up to Monday’s meeting.
There were about 15 people in the rectangular room seated on padded folding chairs.
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.I heard more than 10 shots.
It was automatic, like a string of firecrackers. That’s what everyone said. There were real heroes here. People who did not consider their own lives in protecting others. I crawled out to a hallway and then got outside. There is nothing in reality you can compare it to. It just was not in reality. All I could think was: It wasn’t happening to me. I went outside to the parking lot. There was a girl there calling 911. I was taking cover behind a truck, an SUV. I was about 50 yards away.The gunman was this guy wearing a blue Hawaiian shirt. I saw him go back out to his car — a silver Impala — and get another gun. I saw him get something out of his car. I didn’t see blood when I left. It wasn’t real to me until I went back inside and saw people bleeding.
10. He is Unemployed After an Injury From a Crash
According to the Associated Press, when Newell was fighting for his land, he told news that he was unemployed for years after an injury from a crash.
“If I lose this property, I have nowhere else to go,” Newell said to local news earlier this year. “What they’re doing to me, what they’ve been doing to me for so long, it’s wrong.”