Two court bailiffs were killed and a deputy sheriff shot Monday inside a southwestern Michigan courthouse when an inmate broke loose and got his hands on an officer's gun, officials said.
Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey said the 45-year-old suspect, Larry Darnell Gordon, was also killed. He was being moved from a cell for a courtroom appearance at the Berrien County Courthouse in St. Joseph when a fight occurred and he was able to disarm an officer.
During the incident, Bailey says Gordon took hostages for a short period of time before trying to leave through another door.
The sheriff said he faced multiple felony charges but did not specify what they were.
Bailey said it does not appear that Gordon was handcuffed, adding authorities had "no warning signs" that the suspect would be violent.
The inmate shot a sheriff's deputy, killed the bailiffs and then shot a civilian in the arm in a public area, the sheriff said.
During the incident, Bailey said Gordon took hostages for a short period before trying to leave through another door. The inmate then was fatally shot "by two other bailiffs who came to render aid, along with several other officers," Bailey said.
"He was trying to escape," the sheriff said.
Bailey identified the bailiffs killed as Joseph Zangaro, 61, and Ronald Kienzle, 63. He said the longtime law enforcement officers were close friends of his who became court officers after retiring from their departments.
Zangaro was head of court security. He retired from the Michigan State Police as commander of the Bridgman Post in Berrien County. Kienzle retired as a sergeant of the Benton Township police department after serving in the U.S. Army.
Both had been employed by the court for more than a decade.
The injuries suffered by the deputy and the civilian weren't considered life-threatening. Bailey said the deputy, 41-year-old James Atterberry Jr., had surgery on his arm and is "doing fine." He said the civilian was a woman who also suffered an arm injury. He did not identify her.
"We need prayers and the families need your prayers especially," he told reporters.
The incident occurred just days after five Dallas police officers were killed by a sniper, and amid a wave of violence and threats against law enforcement officers around the country.
An official from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told Fox News that agents from the agency's Detroit Division are en route to the shooting scene at the courthouse.
Another law enforcement official told Fox News the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Detroit field office is monitoring the situation in Berrien County, and that FBI has offered its assistance to local officials but is not involved at this time.
The courthouse is located about 50 miles west of Kalamazoo, where an Uber driver killed six people in a shooting spree earlier this year.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced on Twitter that the Michigan State Police has secured the scene, and is beginning its investigation into the shooting.
Governor Rick Snyder ✔ @onetoughnerd
MSP has secured the scene at the Berrien County courthouse and started its investigation into the shooting that occurred this afternoon.
1:30 AM - 12 Jul 2016
Synder called the shooting "a terrible event" in an afternoon press conference, and called for the public to "rally together" to support one another.
"This is a particularly tough time for law enforcement," he said.
Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich, who is from St. Joseph, described Monday's shooting as a "horrific situation."
“What occurred today in my hometown breaks my heart. My thoughts are with our entire community – our friends and neighbors," he said in a statement. "This tragic event reminds us all too well that our law enforcement officers have their lives on the line every day not knowing what that day will bring. We have lost two very able public servants and we all grieve for them and their families."
Bailey said the courthouse would be closed on Tuesday.
St. Joseph is located in far southwestern Michigan's Berrien County, which borders Indiana.