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Bailiff killed in courthouse shooting 'was running to the danger to protect the rest of us'

Jul 12, 2016

The bailiffs killed Monday in a shooting at the Berrien County Courthouse ran toward the sounds of chaos to protect others in the building, according to Berrien County Circuit Judge Charles LaSata. 

"I heard some shouting, and my bailiff ran to the disturbance," LaSata told Chad Livengood of the Detroit News.

"Then I heard two shots fired, pushed my panic button in the courtroom, told everyone to leave the building, took my staff back into my chambers behind a locked door and then locked (everyone) in our bathroom waiting for the area to be secured." 

Listen to his account to the Detroit News below:

An inmate, Larry Darnell Gordon, took a sheriff's deputy's gun on Monday, using it to wound the deputy and kill two bailiffs, Joe Zangaro, 61, and Ron Kienzle, 63. 

LaSata said that in 12 years as a circuit court judge, Monday was just the second time he had used his panic button. 

The timing of his bailiff's death was particularly cruel, LaSata said, given a conversation he'd had just days earlier.

"I was talking to him on Friday about retiring," LaSata said. "I was telling him, 'Don't stick around too long.' He rode a motorcycle, and I said, 'Leave early enough so you can enjoy some of those road trips out to South Dakota, the Black Hills, where you like to go.' Unbelievable. He was running to the danger to protect the rest of us."

Amid a flurry of initial reports from the shooting, LaSata wanted to make sure that the heroism of many inside the courthouse didn't go unnoticed.

"They don't know what a hero my bailiff was," he said.