2 court bailiffs shot, killed at Berrien County courthouse; shooter dead

Members of the Berrien County Sheriff's Department detail how the shooting occurred at the courthouse Monday, July 11, 2016.

ST. JOSEPH, MICH. - Two court bailiffs -- retired police officers -- were shot and killed by an inmate at the Berrien County courthouse before police returned fire on the suspect, killing them.

"Brave officers" took down the shooter, said Sheriff Paul Bailey during a news conference Monday, July 11. 

The suspect has been identified as 44-year-old Larry Gordon of Coloma, Mich. He was an inmate at the Berrien County Jail awaiting a court appearance on several charges.

"Our hearts are torn apart," Bailey said. 

A county deputy and a civilian also were shot and injured during an altercation around 2:30 p.m. on the courthouse's third floor outside of a holding cell, Bailey said. The inmate was able to get a deputy's gun, and the shooter then shot and killed the two bailiffs.

The shooter also shot a civilian in the arm, Bailey said.

The injured civilian was taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center in St. Joseph for treatment. They are listed in stable condition.

"The person had shot two bailiffs, they're both deceased, and shot a deputy sheriff who is at the hospital right now being treated in an emergency room," Bailey said.

Michigan State Police, county officers, the St. Joseph City Department of Public Safety and the FBI responded to the shooting.

Reporter Taylor Popielarz with WZZM 13's ABC affiliate WBND reports the injured deputy is James Atterberry Jr. of Benton Harbor. The civilian wounded is Kenya Ellis, also of Benton Harbor.

An employee at the prosecutor's office told WZZM the courthouse had been under lockdown since the shooting, and workers had kept in their offices until about 6 p.m.

Retired Benton Township Police officer Kim Fowler knew both of the slain bailiffs well. He said he worked with one of the men for a quarter of a century at Benton Township and the other, a retired state trooper, was his neighbor.

He said he was stunned by the news. He called both men "100 percent police officers carrying on in their retirement by being in the courtroom."

Fowler said the last time he recalled a law enforcement officer being killed in the line of duty in Berrien County was in 1984 when Michigan State Trooper Robert Mihalik was killed during a traffic stop in Shoreham, just south of St. Joseph.

“There are always sporadic incidents everywhere in the country," Fowler said. "Fortunately nothing has happened recently here, but I guess it was our turn in the barrel.”

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder tweeted that police have secured the scene at the courthouse and have begun their investigation. He later visited the scene, saying today is a "terrible day in a wonderful community."

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, who represents the district, said in a statement: “What occurred today in my hometown breaks my heart."

Upton added, "As we learn more about this horrific situation, one thing is clear: We must do better to prevent these types of tragedies from occurring.”

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, tweeted the following:

"Horrible news out of Berrien County just now. I am monitoring the situation closely and my heart breaks for everyone affected."

The Detroit Free Press contributed to this report.

© 2018 WZZM-TV


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