Security increased in year since courthouse shooting

1 year later, Ron Kienzle and Joseph Zangaro honored with memorial walk & vigil

Berrien County Law Enforcement Memorial, Ronald Kienzle, Joseph Zangaro
Photos of bailiffs Ronald Kienzle (left) and Joseph Zangaro at the Berrien County Law Enforcement Memorial. (July 11, 2017)

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (WOOD) — Hundreds of people gathered Tuesday evening to honor two bailiffs who were shot and killed at the Berrien County Courthouse one year ago.

The crowd walked about a mile from the courthouse to the Berrien County Law Enforcement Memorial for a candlelight vigil for Ronald Kienzle and Joseph Zangaro.

Berrien County Law Enforcement Memorial
The Berrien County Law Enforcement Memorial. (July 11, 2017)

Chief Judge Gary Bruce addressed the crowd, recalling the deaths of the Kienzle and Zangaro as shocking. He said has he has thought a lot about the impact of the July 11, 2016 courthouse shooting and the impact of gun violence.

Zangaro came to visit Bruce two to three times a day, he said, and would always take the stairs rather than the elevator. He had a million stories.

Bruce spoke about how Zangaro and Kienzle were always there for each other. Whenever Kienzle had a doctor’s appointment or needed his dog taken care of, Zangaro stepped up to help. Zangaro would jokingly complain about Kienzle as Kienzle would always go missing, trying to avoid his friend.

The judge also remembered Kienzle’s love of motorcycles and how he would jokingly stand outside the courtroom when divorce proceedings were happening to see what women were getting divorced.

Berrien County Law Enforcement Memorial, Ronald Kienzle, Joseph Zangaro
Photos of bailiffs Ronald Kienzle (left) and Joseph Zangaro at the Berrien County Law Enforcement Memorial. (July 11, 2017)

Bruce also thanked the families who were in attendance Tuesday night, saying he can’t imagine what they’ve gone through over the past year.

“We knew we had to go on and we knew that we had to serve the public, just as Joe and Ron did for their entire working lives. We had to do it without those two gentlemen and their steady presence in our courthouse,” he said. “Everything for us now is marked before and after July 11, because nothing is the same anymore.”

On Tuesday, Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey took 24 Hour News 8 to the courtroom adjacent to the hall where his friends were shot and killed.

“Every time I come over here, I think about it. Come back here and say a prayer for both of them,” Bailey said.

Kienzle and Zangaro were in Judge Charles LaSata’s courtroom that day. Inmate Larry Gordon, who was in the courtroom for a hearing, wasn’t needed and was escorted out. Then, in an apparent escape attempt, he overpowered Deputy James Atterbery, stole his gun and shot him.

“You could hear a fight in the hallway. That’s when Bailiff Kienzle went running to assist Deputy Atterberry and then shortly after you hear the shots,” Bailey said.

Atterberry was shot in the arm but survived. Zangaro, 61, and Kienzle, 63, were killed.

As Gordon tried to escape, he took several people hostage. He was shot and killed by other officers. A bystander was also wounded, but survived.

>>Inside Complete coverage of the shooting

In the year since the shooting, security measures at the courthouse have been beefed up.

“We have a lot of people come and go, so we don’t know what somebody is going to do on any given day no matter what their charges are, you don’t know if somebody’s breaking point, so that’s why we’ve changed how we’ve done things in the past,” Bailey said.

Now, inmates are never moved by a single deputy; they always work in pairs. There are also more measures in place to prevent an inmate from breaking free of restraints.

“They also have a belt that we put on them and handcuff both hands to the belt so they can’t move so they can’t move their arms,” Bailey said.

If someone appears before a judge and is sentenced to jail, they are immediately handcuffed behind their back.

And if an inmate doesn’t have to be in court, deputies won’t bring them in.

“The courts are communicating do they really need that person there and communicating back to us,” Bailey said.

Bailey said the Berrien Community Foundation received a flood of calls after the shooting and helped raise $50,000 for the department for holsters, gun lights and body armor.

A plaque was dedicated Tuesday outside the courtroom where the shooting took place. Kienzle and Zangaro’s pictures are also hanging in front of the entrance, along with that of Elton Stover, who was killed in the line of duty investigating a bank robbery in 1965.