Larry Darnell Gordon was handcuffed during courthouse shooting, police say

Larry Darnell Gordon’s hands were handcuffed in front of him when he wrestled a gun away from a Berrien County Sheriff‘s deputy and started shooting Monday, July 11.

That’s new information from Sheriff Paul Bailey, who spoke during a press conference Tuesday morning.

Gordon was being escorted by 41-year-old James Atterberry Jr. from a holding cell on the third floor of the courthouse to a courtroom when Gordon started a fight, Bailey said. He then shot Atterberry in the arm, shot and killed bailiffs Joe Zangaro, 61, and Ron Kienzle, 63, and moved into the courtroom. There, he shot an unidentified female civilian in the arm and tried to take hostages, but two other bailiffs shot and killed Gordon there.

Those two bailiffs, who have not been identified, are heroes, Bailey said. Ten bailiffs were working at the courthouse Tuesday and all were armed.

When emergency responders got to Gordon, they performed CPR in an attempt to revive him. He was still handcuffed when he died, Bailey said.

Bailey had initially said that Gordon may not have been handcuffed, but said Tuesday morning that he had gotten wrong information.

Berrien County emergency officials respond to a shooting at the Berrien County Courthouse on Monday, July 11, 2016. (Photo Supplied/ABC 57)
Berrien County emergency officials respond to a shooting at the Berrien County Courthouse on Monday, July 11, 2016. (Photo Supplied/ABC 57)

Prisoners are normally handcuffed in the front when they are being moved from the holding cell to the courthouse, Bailey said. He and other Berrien County leaders plan to go over procedures and may make changes to make the courthouse safer.

“This is an unfortunate situation,” he said, but the courthouse was prepared.

Michigan State Police and the Berrien County Sheriff’s Motor Unit escorted the bodies of Zangaro and Kienzle to Grand Rapids late Monday night. Autopsies are expected to take place Tuesday.

Investigators worked late into the night at the courthouse. They went home to sleep and are expected to resume the investigation Tuesday morning, Bailey said. The Berrien County Courthouse is closed Tuesday, but will reopen Wednesday with increased security.

Gordon was booked into the Berrien County Jail on April 20 and charged with criminal sexual conduct, assault with a dangerous weapon and kidnapping, according to state police records. He was in court Monday for a hearing. Bailey said Gordon had a criminal history and police were familiar with him, but they never knew him to be violent or aggressive with officers.

Atterberry underwent surgery on Monday afternoon and was still being treated in the intensive care unit at Lakeland Hospital as of Tuesday morning, Bailey said. The unidentified female civilian was also being treated for a gunshot at Lakeland Hospital.

Zangaro was the head of courthouse security and had worked at the courthouse since May 2004. He retired from the Michigan State Police as post commander of the Bridgman post.

Kienzle had been a bailiff with the trial court since April 2005 after retiring as a sergeant from the Benton Charter Township Police Department. He was a U.S. Army veteran.

berrien county courthouse shooting
The area around the Berrien County Courthouse is blocked off while police investigate a shooting that left at least three people dead, including the shooter on Monday afternoon, July 11, 2016. (Photo Supplied/ABC 57)

Bailey knew both men for more than 30 years. He said it was hard for him to sleep last night, but he knows he will get through the tragedy “with God’s help.”

“With prayer we will get through this,” he said Tuesday morning. “With our brotherhood we will get through this.”

Bailey said he’s received hundreds of emails, phone calls and text messages from people throughout the community and the country who want to extend their condolences and prayers.

“It goes to tell you what a great country we have. People talk about us being a divided country. We’re not divided. We’re strong. We’re gonna move forward,” he said. “America will always stand strong.”

Grief counselors will be available to speak with courthouse and police employees on Tuesday.

Bailey asked for everyone to pray for the victims and the families and to thank police officers they see throughout their day.

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