By now, unless you’ve been living in a shack in middle of the woods entirely off the grid, you’ve probably heard about the tragic shooting that took place in the Berrien County Courthouse a few days ago. A cuffed inmate managed to take a weapon off an armed deputy sheriff and fatally shoot two courthouse bailiffs with it before being shot down by responding officers.
Although the incident was all over the news within minutes of it having happened, factual details are only now being made available. Here is what we know thus far…
Michigan Man Facing Charges Disarms Officer and Fires
45-year-old Larry Darnell Gordon was waiting to be arraigned in the Berrien County Courthouse on numerous felony charges. He was facing Kidnapping, Assault with a dangerous weapon, and First Degree Criminal sexual conduct charges, among other felonies. While we don’t currently know much about the case that led to these allegations against Darnell, we do know that all of these are very serious crimes under Michigan law, which could lead to a lifetime behind bars after conviction.
As he was being transported to the courthouse from the holding cell, he became involved in a physical fight with Deputy James Atterberry Jr. Although Gordon was cuffed in front, his handcuffs were not attached to a belly chain, which would have restricted his movements considerably. As such, he was able to disarm the deputy and shoot him with his own weapon.
From there, Gordon moved into a public hallway inside the courthouse and shot two bailiffs, 61-year-old Joseph Zangaro, and 63-year-old Ronald Kienzle, killing them both. They are both long time courthouse bailiffs. Shortly afterwards, Gordon attempted to take hostages and escape from the courthouse out of a backdoor. He shot one other civilian court employee in the arm before making his escape attempt, but was shot down by responding officers who had surrounded the courthouse.
Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey addressed the situation and the department’s plans for ensuring that it never happens again. “We’re going to look at everything about why this happened and make sure that if there are things we can change so this never happens again, we will,” he said. “We’ll be working with our chief judge about our protocols at the courthouse.”
Jessica Gordon, Gordon’s ex-wife, has attempted to explain his possible motivations in several interviews with the media since the shootings. She says that she is convinced he was only trying to get home to see his 7-year daughter, whom he was likely fearful that he wouldn’t see again. “He’s not a monster,” she said, but rather, a loving father who was very close to his daughter.”
Both of the bailiffs who were shot were retired police officers. Zangaro, who was head of court security, had retired from the Michigan State Police where he served as the commander of the Bridgman Post. Kienzle had been a sergeant in the Benton Township police department before retiring. According to media sources, the deputy who was shot is in intensive care, but is stable. There is no word on the other, unnamed court employee who was shot other than she is expected to live.
Our hearts go out to the families of the fallen officers and to the Berrien County community at large as they mourn this senseless tragedy. Our prayers and thoughts are with you.