U.S. Attorney General offers aid following courthouse shooting

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

WASHINGTON — U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has offered to help Michigan authorities investigate Monday’s shooting at the Berrien County Courthouse.

Lynch spoke Tuesday morning with the U.S. House Judiciary Committee to testify about several issues involving the Justice Department. The conversation turned to the deadly shooting and attempted escape in Southwest Michigan.

“As we gather here this morning, I know that we’re all thinking of the two bailiffs who were killed and the sheriff’s deputy who was wounded in a shooting at a courthouse in Michigan yesterday,” Lynch said during the committee meeting.

Larry Darnell Gordon, 44, of Coloma tried to escape Monday when he was being transferred from a holding cell. Police said a handcuffed Gordon disarmed a sheriff’s deputy on the way to a courtroom and began shooting.

Gordon shot and killed court officers Joseph Zangaro and Ronald Kienzle and wounded James Atterberry Jr. and a civilian. Police said other court officers shot and killed Gordon.

“The Department of Justice stands ready to provide whatever help we can to state and local authorities as they investigate this heinous crime,” Lynch said during the committee meeting, “and our sincerest condolences are with the friends, colleagues and loved ones of the devoted public servants that we lost.”

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, spoke to the U.S. House of Representatives during a Tuesday morning session. Upton asked to address the council for one minute in order to update legislators on what was going on in his hometown of St. Joseph.

“I rise today to offer support and love for the victims friends, family and certainly our entire community. We should continue to keep those affected in our hearts and our minds,” Upton said during a C-SPAN broadcast. “I also want to thank the countless folks on the front lines who prevented this tragedy from being even worse. Swift actions of those on the ground need to be commended, particularly the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department, led by Sheriff Paul Bailey. I was with him just this past Saturday, and what he had to endure these past few days is unthinkable.”

Upton continued by thanking the immediate support from local officials, including St. Joseph Mayor Mike Garey, Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad, Gov. Rick Snyder, state Sen. John Proos and state Rep. Al Pscholka.

Upton asked colleagues and those listening to pray for the families of Zangaro and Kienzle.

“It is times like these when we need to unite as one. This heartbreaking tragedy happened in the blink of the eye, but we will never forget,” Upton said. “…pray for the families of these two victims, and the speedy recovery of a deputy and civilian caught in the middle. We will get through this together.”

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., gave his condolences to victims’ families at the Senate Floor on Tuesday.

“Across Michigan, our hearts have been shattered by senseless violence like this,” Peters said during his time at the podium. “…Yesterday’s incident illustrates a very important fact. Whether as a member of a local police department, a rapid transit officer, or a court bailiff, public safety officers risk their lives everyday to keep our families and our communities safe.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on July 13, 2016)

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