Police and Fire Reports

Berrien County Prosecutor releases background of Courthouse Shooter

  Berrien County Prosecutor Mike Sepic has released information on the current criminal charges that were on file for Larry Gordon, 44, of Coloma, the Berrien County Courthouse shooter.  Last Monday while at the Berrien County Courthouse for a court hearing, Gordon managed to get the handgun of a Berrien County Sheriff Deputy, shooting him, a civilian and two Court Officers.    Sepic said that Gordon was being sought for an outstanding warrant for domestic violence dating back to January 28, 2016.  After several attempts to execute the warrant, on April 20, 2016, Coloma Township Police Officers were looking for Gordon at his residence on Tannery Road in Coloma Township.  Gordon lived there with his ex-wife.    Upon arrival, officers observed a light on in a shed on the property and discovered Gordon to be inside. Gordon barricaded himself inside but escaped through a back access door.  He fled and was later discovered several streets away with the help of a tracking dog.  He physically resisted police officers as they tried to get him to exit from under the porch.   Police then discovered the presence of a 17 year-old female in the shed.  The investigation revealed that the 17 year-old had been held against her will by Gordon for approximately two weeks.  He gave her methamphetamine in exchange for sex, forced some penetrations, and assaulted her with weapons and by strangulation.  He also video recorded the sexual activity.    Gordon was then charged by the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office with the following: Five counts of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree; one count of kidnapping; three counts of production of child sexually abusive material; possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine; one count of criminal sexual conduct in the 3 degree; one count of unlawful imprisonment; two counts of assault by strangulation; one count of assault with a dangerous weapon; two counts of resisting and obstructing a police officer; and misdemeanor charges of possession of marijuana and malicious destruction of a building.  In addition, he was supplemented as a 4 habitual offender.   Gordon’s previous convictions include a federal conviction for possession of a pipe bomb (1992); a feeling and eluding, 3 degree, in Barry County (1998); a federal conviction for possession of a pipe bomb (1998); a federal conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm (2002); and larceny in a building in Berrien County in 2013.    Sepic also said that through this police investigation, an incident was discovered and investigated involving similar conduct with a 16 year-old victim in 2006.  Charges had not yet been filed in that case, which was also in Berrien County.     Due to the more serious charges, the original domestic violence charge, a misdemeanor, was being dismissed in court the day of the shootings.  If convicted at trial, sentencing guidelines for Gordon’s offenses may have been as high as between 18 and 62 years on a minimum sentence.   Attempts to obtain the police report from the Coloma Township Police Department through the Freedom of Information Act have been delayed due to efforts needed to prepare the document for public viewing.  As allowed by the Act, the document is having information removed that must remain confidential.     The preliminary investigation into the Courthouse shooting reveals that Gordon was being held in a holding cell on the 3rd floor of the Berrien County Courthouse outside of Trial Court Judge Charles LaSata’s courtroom.  A scuffle ensued between him and Deputy James Atterberry.  Court Officer Ronald Kienzle secured LaSata’s courtroom and went to assist.  He was fatally wounded.    The head of Courthouse Security, Joseph Zangaro also responded and was also fatally wounded.  Gordon briefly attempted to take hostages, while other Baliffs and police officers that were in the courthouse engaged Gordon and he was shot and killed.    The Berrien County Homicide Task Force, the Violent Crimes Task Force, and the Michigan State Police Crime Lab have been assisting in the investigation which continues.    A press conference was scheduled for Wednesday, July 20, however, investigators were still conducting interviews and gathering information and evidence in order to complete the investigation into the shooting that occurred.  Therefore, the Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey will hold a press conference on Friday, July 22, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. at the Berrien County Conference Center located at 2149 E. Napier Ave., Benton Harbor.    Law Enforcement, elected officials, and the community came out in full force to say good-bye and to pay tribute to Zangaro and Kienzle on Friday and Monday respectively.  Prior to the funerals which were attended by hundreds of people, a memorial walk from the Berrien County Courthouse to the Law Enforcement Monument on the bluff was held as well as a candlelight vigil at the Bandshell. Blue ribbons in support of law enforcement adorn trees and lamp posts throughout Benton Harbor and St. Joseph.  A memorial set up in front of the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office remained even today.  Flags at all County and State facilities were flown at half staff for Zangaro and Kienzle on Friday and Monday.  They will remain that way through July 22 in honor of three Baton Rouge Police Officers killed in an ambush on Sunday, July 17.    Zangaro retired from the Michigan State Police as Post Commander of the Bridgman Post. He had worked for Berrien County since 2004.  Kienzle retired as a Sgt. From the Benton Charter Township Police Department after serving in the United States Army.  He had worked for Berrien County since 2005.    The injured deputy, Atterberry, was admitted to Lakeland Hospital for a couple of days before being released.   He has worked for Berrien County since 1998. The citizen that was injured was later identified as Kenya Ellis.  She had received injuries to her arm as well.  She was also hospitalized at Lakeland Hospital. Her current condition is unknown.    The Berrien County Courthouse remained closed on Tuesday, July 12 and was closed to the public on Wednesday, July 13 but employees were asked to report where counseling services were made available.

Watervliet Man Wanted for Assaulting Police

  The Berrien County Sheriff’s Office states that Larry Maurice Coleman, III, of Watervliet is wanted for the charge of assaulting a police officer causing injury.    0n June 13, 2016 at approximately 2:12 the Coloma Township Police Department responded to Watervliet Township to assist the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department with a disturbance at an adult foster care facility. While on scene one of the subjects became argumentative and aggressive and attempts by the officers to calm the person failed.   At one point the subject approached a Coloma Township officer with his fist clenched and arm cocked back. The subject refused to obey verbal commands to stay back. The officer defended himself from the attack and took the subject into custody following a physical altercation. The officer received a minor arm injury and was treated and released. The subject was transported to the hospital for a mental health evaluation and was not injured.  Anyone who might be aware of the whereabouts of Coleman is asked to call the police.

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