Slain bailiffs remembered as ‘gentle giant’, ‘go-to guy’

Joseph Zangaro, Ronald Kienzle honored at St. Joseph vigils

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)


ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (WOOD) – Just blocks away from the courthouse where two Berrien County bailiffs lost their lives, community members gathered Tuesday night to mourn and share memories.

People filled the John E.N. Howard Bandshell in downtown St. Joseph for a candlelight vigil in honor of 61-year-old Joseph Zangaro and 63-year-old Ronald Kienzle.

Both men were shot and killed Monday after a handcuffed Larry Gordon wrestled a gun away from a deputy and began firing. A co-worker told Kienzle’s brother he saved her life by shielding her from the attack.

Joseph Zangaro left and Ronald Kienzle right 071116
Undated courtesy photos of Joseph Zangaro (left) and Ronald Kienzle (right) were killed at the Berrien County courthouse July 11, 2016. (WNDU)

Michigan State Police Sgt. Steve Barker worked with both Zangaro and Kienzle.

“(Kienzle) was a big guy, very intimidating, very tall, very stock. (He’s) someone that you didn’t want to mess with. And then he opened his locker and lo’ and behold, what I saw in there was this poster. He had a poster of Guns and Roses. I said, ‘alright, this guy’s going to be good to go,’” Barker said.

Barker said he also worked under Zangaro, when he was a sergeant for the MSP.

“He was very stern, very disciplined. He was very organized, wanted to make sure that you ate right and stayed in shape because that’s what he did and that’s what state troopers do. And he was a fine example to follow. Whenever I had questions or concerns on how to handle a report or complaint he was the go-to guy,” Barker said.

Kienzle’s close friend Dan Meister fought back tears Tuesday as he replayed the moment he found out about the shooting.

Police outside the Berrien County Courthouse on July 11, 2016.
Police outside the Berrien County Courthouse on July 11, 2016.

“I know probably six out of the ten bailiffs that are there, and so I started texting him. And I actually texted Ron yesterday around 2:30 on my phone saying, you know, ‘Are you OK?’ I never heard from him,” Meister said.

Meister joined a circle of neighbors and friends at Kienzle’s home Tuesday evening to hold their own candlelight vigil. Messages written in chalk and flowers bordered the home.

“(He was a) gentle giant. He was, you know, very kind and very giving.” Meister reflected.

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

According to an online obituary, Zangaro’s visitation will take place Thursday at Starks & Menchinger Chapel & Cremation Services, located at 2650 Niles Road in St. Joseph. His celebration of life service will be held 1 p.m. Friday at the Mendel Center.

Deputy James Atterberry Jr. and a woman relatives identified Kenya Ellis were also wounded in Monday’s shooting. Atterberry Jr. was out of surgery and listed in good condition Tuesday. Ellis was listed in stable condition Monday evening.

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