Berrien County bailiff died saving woman’s life

Berrien County Sheriff memorial
Flowers and balloons decorate a Berrien County Sheriff's Department cruiser a day after the courthouse shooting.


ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (WOOD) — The brother of Berrien County Bailiff Ron Kienzle says he died saving a woman’s life.

“One of the personnel that was in that office she said that he bolted by (her) and saved (her) because he took the brunt of what was going on. And I said, ‘That’s him,’” said Jerry Kienzle.

Jerry Kienzle said his brother mentioned an inmate that was expected to be trouble; he now believes his sibling was talking about Larry Gordon.

“He had mentioned they had an interesting one coming for sentencing and this must’ve been it,” Jerry Kienzle said.

Berrien County bailiffs killed
Undated courtesy photos of Joseph Zangaro (left) and Ronald Kienzle (right) who were killed at the Berrien County Courthouse on July 11, 2016. (Courtesy Berrien County Administration)

Ron Kienzle was one of two bailiffs fatally shot by Gordon. Investigators say Gordon was handcuffed and just outside his holding cell at the Berrien County Courthouse when he wrestled away deputy James Atterberry Jr.’s gun and shot him in the arm. The sheriff said Gordon also shot and killed Joseph Zangaro before making it to a third floor hallway where he shot a woman identified by relatives as Kenya Ellis.

Ellis was in stable condition Monday evening; Hospital officials said Atterberry Jr. was out of surgery and in good condition Tuesday afternoon.

A memorial neighbor Denise Thomas started outside Ron Kienzle’s Benton Harbor home had grown to include flowers, chalk drawings and flags Tuesday.

“Other neighbors came. They just wanted to do the same, just to deal with it to show how much we love this man,” Denise Thomas said. “(He was) the kind of person that you would want as a public servant, caring about people, friendly, engaging, warm, genuine and going to be missed.”

“He loved what he was doing,” said Jerry Kienzle.

Kienzle told friends he planned to retire in a year and move to a warmer climate to spend time with his two daughters and grandchildren.

Zangaro’s family grieved in private Tuesday. Officers guarded the entrance to the home while memorial flowers covered the front yard.

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