The two bailiffs killed inside the Berrien County Courthouse were both retired cops -- one a former Michigan State Police officer and the other a retired sergeant for Benton Township, according to law enforcement sources in the small tight-knit community.
The Free Press is not naming either man at this time until it is assured the families have been notified.
Retired Benton Township Police officer Kim Fowler knew both of the slain bailiffs as good friends. 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."
“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.”
Deniece Fisher, retired St. Joseph police officer, also knew both men well.
"They were two great officers who didn’t deserved what happened to them," Fisher said. "I was absolutely stunned, and very saddened and anger that this happened. I can't wrap my head around it."
Fisher is active maintaining the Berrien County Law Enforcement Memorial on the bluff in St. Joseph overlooking Lake Michigan and the ceremony held there every May.
"I was hoping in my lifetime I wouldn’t have to read another name being placed on that memorial," Fisher said. "And now next year I have to read the names of two very good friends."
Fisher said the last time a law enforcement officer was killed in the line of duty in Berrien County was in 1984 when Michigan State Trooper Robert Mihalik was shot to death during a traffic stop in Shoreham, just south of St. Joseph.
William Tucker, who retired from the Berrien County Sheriff's Department in 2005, said both officers were his friends..
"He was a cop’s cop, but he knew where the line was,” Tucker said of the retired state trooper killed Monday inside the courthouse.