Joseph Zangaro: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know
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Joseph Zangaro: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Joseph Zangaro, one of the two bailiffs shot and killed by an inmate who went on a rampage inside a Michigan courthouse, was a retired police officer who was chief of security at the courthouse, according to The Detroit Free Press.

Ron Kienzle was identified as the other bailiff killed; a sheriff’s deputy and civilian were also injured in the shooting, which occurred as an inmate was being escorted from a holding cell in the Berrien County Courthouse, The Detroit News said. The deputy and civilian are expected to survive.

The inmate, Larry Darnell Gordon, was then shot and killed by other officers in the courthouse third-floor hallway, said The Detroit News. An emotional Sheriff Paul Bailey said he had known both Zangaro, 61, and Kienzle, 63, for more than 30 years.

“Our hearts are torn apart. They were our friends. They were our colleagues,” he said to 953mnc.com. “It’s a sad day.”

The multiple victim shooting was the latest to rock America after five police officers were slain by a gunman in Dallas, and a gunman opened fire in Orlando’s Pulse night club. Police shootings of African-American men in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Falcon Heights, Minnesota, have sparked protests across the country.

Here’s what you need to know:


1. Zangaro & Kienzle Were ‘100 Percent Police Officers,’ a Friend Says

Kim Fowler, a retired Benton Township Police officer, told The Detroit Free Press that Zangaro was his neighbor and he’d worked with Kienzle for 25 years. He described both bailiffs as “100% police officers carrying on in their retirement by being in the courtroom.”

Zangaro was a retired state police lieutenant, said The Detroit Free Press. He’d been a bailiff for 10 years, as had Kienzle.

A retired St. Joseph police officer, Deniece Fisher, who knew both men, said they were “two great officers,” The Free Press said.

According to a statement from the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department, Zangaro was “the head of courthouse security” and worked for the Berrien County Trial Court since 2004. He had retired from the Michigan State Police as Post Commander of the Bridgman Post.


2. Zangaro Was Responsible for Order in the Courthouse & Was Hired to Strengthen Security

Joseph Zangaro. (Officer Down Memorial page).

Joseph Zangaro. (Officer Down Memorial page).

The sheriff said the melee ended when other officers approached and shot the inmate to death in the courthouse, according to The South Bend Tribune. Prayer vigils were being held for those slain and injured, as the tight-knit community grappled with the news.

In 2011, Zangaro gave a lengthy interview to a local newspaper, The Herald Palladium, in which he described his job as overseeing “officers responsible for keeping order in the sometimes difficult atmosphere of court buildings.” He was hired in an effort to strengthen security in the courthouse, said the story, which was entitled “Walking the Courthouse Beat.”

Zangaro told the Herald Palladium that the job was challenging because of “the number of people we get in here. And probably 90 percent of the people who are here don’t want to be.”


3. The Inmate Grabbed the Gun From a Deputy During a Fight & Tried to Take Hostages

According to The South Bend Tribune, the inmate, Gordon, 45, grabbed a sheriff’s deputy’s gun as he was being transported from a holding cell at the courthouse. He then fought with officers and shot the two bailiffs to death.

The deputy, identified as James Atterberry, Jr., was shot in the hand, finger, and arm, but survived. Atterberry is a church elder and father of five who has been on the Sheriff’s Department for 13 years, The South Bend Tribune said.

A civilian, Kenya Ellis, was shot and injured, too, said The South Bend Tribune. She is expected to survive and is the only civilian who was injured in the rampage, other than the shooter.

Kenya Ellis Courthouse Shooting

Kenya Ellis pictured on her Facebook page.

A Sheriff’s Department’s statement says that Gordon disarmed one of the “officers who were escorting him to a court hearing.” After shooting the officers, “Gordon briefly attempted to take hostages, while other bailiffs and police officers in the courthouse engaged Gordon and he was shot and killed.”


4. The Other Deceased Bailiff, Kienzle, Was a Motorcycling Enthusiast & Veteran Who Loved Dogs

Ron Kienzle. (Facebook/Ron Kienzle)

Ron Kienzle. (Facebook/Ron Kienzle)

Kienzle, who also died in the rampage, posted many pictures on Facebook of himself with motorcyles. A waitress who served him coffee for 22 years wrote on Facebook that he loved dogs, and was “one of the good guys.”

The waitress, Shannon Renbarger, wrote: “We would talk about how you wanted one of my pups and told you youd be the first to get one. You were my baliff at my wedding and you kept asking me if i was sure if i wanted to do it, we giggled and you hugged me and said you were happy for me.”

Ron Kienzle. in a throwback photo he posted on Facebook. (Facebook/Ron Kienzle)

Ron Kienzle. in a throwback photo he posted on Facebook. (Facebook/Ron Kienzle)

Kienzle was also a retired police officer; he’d worked for the Benton Charter Police Department in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Kienzle was a father, grandfather, and U.S. Army veteran.


5. The Inmate Was in Court on a Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Charge

Larry Gordon, the inmate who killed the two bailiffs, was in court on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge when the scuffle broke out right after Atterberry escorted him out of the courtroom. The two bailiffs heard the commotion erupt in the hallway and ran to help, according to The Detroit News.

A probation agent saw the inmate run past her, said The South Bend Tribune.

“She was still able to get back to the probation office (in the courthouse) and tell everyone there to get down and take cover,” said Michigan Department of Corrections’ Spokesman Chris Gautz said, according to The South Bend Tribune.

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5 Comments

Debby (Brevitz) Priestap

My heart is broken. I too graduated from high school and swam with Joe. He dreamed of being a state trooper as early as grade school. Joe was a great guy, a class act and a credit to his profession. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and all of those who are mourning him today.

P Jeffrey Colquhoun

Joe Zangaro was a classmate of mine
At Lakeview Highschool in Battle Creek, and a leader on the swim team who I always looked up to. He served honorably as a Police Officer and will be greatly missed.
P Jeff Colquhoun, MD

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