Gunman Kills Three at Town Hall Meeting

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 6 2013 11:17 AM

Gunman Kills Three at Town Hall Meeting Over Apparent Property Dispute

Three people are dead and several others wounded after a disgruntled man opened fire at a town hall meeting in rural Pennsylvania on Monday night. Officials are saying that the 59-year-old gunman, Rockne Newell, had been in a dispute with township officials in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains for years over the living conditions on his trash-filled and dilapidated property. The most interesting eye-witness account comes from Chris Reber, a reporter for the Pocono Record who was covering his first board meeting when the bullets began to fly. Here's a snippet of his first-person account:

"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. ...
"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."
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Newell was eventually tackled by a someone who had attended the meeting, and was shot with his own gun, according to eye-witnesses. He remains in police custody at a local hospital. The best bet as for Newell's motivation appears to be a court decision from last year that ordered him to leave his property and put it up for sale. "If I lose this property," Newell told the Record earlier this summer, "I have nowhere else to go."

In addition to relaying his first-person account to his editors, Reber also filed a more traditional write-up of the meeting gone wrong, which you can read here.

Jennifer Lai is an associate editor at Slate. Slate Plus members, email her here.