Ross Twp. tragedy
Obviously the investigation is continuing and we're not sure of all the facts that led an individual to barge into the Ross Township Municipal Building in Saylorsburg at the start of the township supervisors' meeting, and open fire with two guns.
The result was three people were killed and two others injured. Had it not been for the heroic efforts of two individuals who tackled the suspected gunman, the casualty toll could have been higher.
According to initial reports, the shooter is believed to have been 59-year-old Rockne Newell, who has been carrying on a feud with the township over his messy property.
The Associated Press reports:
Newell's property includes an old camper in the front yard filled with wooden pallets, pieces of what appear to be old railroad ties and trash. A garage leans and appears close to collapse, and a propane tank sits inside an old dog house.
Township supervisors voted in February 2012 to take legal action against Newell for violating zoning and sewer regulations, according to meeting minutes posted online.
Last October, Newell set up a fundraising page online and was trying to raise $10,000 to pay for legal fees in his fight with the township.
"Ross township took me to court & the court ruled I have to vacate my home of 20 years," he wrote on the page called saveRockyshome. "I live on SSI which comes to $600 a month I have no money to clean it up."
In June, the Pocono Record wrote a story about what it said was an 18-year fight between the township and Newell over his property.
Monroe County Court sided with the township in August 2012 and ordered Newell to vacate and never again occupy or use the property unless he had the permits to do so. The report said Newell had been living out of a car, a 1984 Pontiac Fiero, and in abandoned buildings since being ordered to vacate.
It sounds like situations municipal officials throughout our area - and throughout the country - handle every day.
Just recently, Summit Hill Borough Council condemned a property and forced several tenants to vacate the property.
In East Penn Township, the supervisors are in an enduring dispute with a resident because of alleged junk and debris on his property.
We could go on and on. The reason such disputes often arise is because individuals complain to the supervisors or borough council members about the neglect a neighbor shows regarding his or her property.
When things get too bad, the elected township officials must act appropriately.
What happened in Ross Township last night was extreme. It also sounds like it was out of desperation.
As a result, innocent people were killed.
Don't blame the supervisors. They were trying to make the municipality a better place to live. They were trying to eliminate a potential health hazard and eyesore.
What is unfortunate is that the dispute has gone on for so long. When things aren't resolved more expeditiously, they fester.
Eighteen years is a long time for any dispute.
Often it is the slow gears of the jusice system which prevent local officials from taking faster approperiate action.
We don't know if more expeditious resolution to the fued between Rockne Newell and the township would have prevented what happened last night.
We do know that elected officials often have a difficult job and must make tough decisions.
It is sad that in Ross Township, looking out for the residents of the townships ended in such tragic fashion.
By RON GOWER