Four Dead, Two Injured After Shooting At PA Town Hall Meeting

This dispute appears to be a local one, and tragic both in origin and outcome. Four are dead and two injured after a gunman began shooting through walls into a city council meeting in northeastern Pennsylvania, Via Raw Story:

“All I saw was the holes go through the hall,” said Pocono Record reporter Chris Reber, who was at the meeting in the Ross Township municipal building. “I saw smoke and plaster flying out, blowing out through the walls.”

“I was the only person who crawled out. Everyone got behind a table. Some of the supervisors were over on the side throwing up.”

The shooter had a pistol with a scope and starting shooting through the walls. He shot several people and then went to his car to retrieve another weapon.

The gunman, identified as Rockne Newell, had a long-standing dispute with the town government and FEMA over the condition of his property.

Police have identified the gunman as 59-year-old Rockne Warren Newell. His property had recently been seized by the county sheriff.

Newell had an 18-year-long dispute with the Ross Township Board of Supervisors over the condition of his property. Newell, a self-proclaimed junk collector, was ordered in 2012 to clean and vacate his property unless he obtained various permits.

“I need to clean up & I need a lawyer,I have no place to go and my 2 rescue dogs will be put to sleep because no one else will take them,” Newell wrote on the website Give Forward in 2012.

It appears the genesis of the dispute surrounded the condemnation of his property and subsequent FEMA and township requirements that he comply with their rules regarding a culvert driveway to handle storm runoff:

The township's most immediate concern is with a culvert driveway Newell has installed on his property.

In August 2011, Hurricane Irene's flooding washed away a footbridge over Newell's stream bed.

Newell said the Federal Emergency Management Agency told him to replace the footbridge with a culvert driveway wide enough to allow emergency vehicle access to the property.

He maintains that he was told by FEMA that he wouldn't need a permit to install this culvert driveway.

"We're not a regulatory agency, so it's not up to us to issue any permits," said external affairs specialist Josie Pritchard in FEMA's Harrisburg office. "Issuing permits is the job of the Department of Environmental Protection or local municipality, depending on the specific project."

It's difficult to tell what role politics and rhetoric might have played in the tragedy. He was aggrieved to be forced from his home and left to live in his car. I would be, too. Yet he objected to gun safety laws and was also disappointed that more hadn't been done to legalize marijuana.

On his Facebook page, Newell said he voted for President Barack Obama but was upset with his administration, citing the President’s failure to close down Guantanamo Bay and the continuing federal crack down on medical marijuana. He also posted an image on his page in support of the Second Amendment, along with a lengthy note opposing gun control. On his Twitter page, he tweeted in support of a petition to “eliminate armed guards for the President, Vice-President, and their families, and establish Gun Free Zones around them.”

Whatever his motives, it's a tragedy that might be the result of mental illness, poverty, a gun in the wrong hands, or inflamed rhetoric. All could have been prevented, but in this case, none were.

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