COLOMA, MI — The suspect who police say shot and killed two bailiffs and wounded a sheriff’s deputy and a civilian in the Berrien County courthouse faced numerous criminal charges, including sexual assaults on a teenager.
Larry Gordon, 44, of Coloma, faced at least 20 criminal charges, Coloma Township Police Chief Jason Roe said Tuesday afternoon.
Gordon faced six counts of criminal sexual conduct, three counts of child sexually abusive material; two counts each of assault with a dangerous weapon, assault by strangulation and resisting or obstructing police; a single counts of delivery or manufacture of methamphetamine, possession of marijuana, kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, and aggravated domestic violence. Roe said the charges stem from alleged offenses involving a 17-year-old girl who came forward to police.
Roe said Gordon faced two other charges, aggravated domestic assault and assault with a dangerous weapon, which stemmed from an incident involving his ex-wife, Jessica Gordon. The chief said there was a pending motion in that case at the time of the shooting Monday.
Police say Gordon apparently was attempting to escape custody Monday, July 11 when he disarmed Deputy James Atterberry Jr. while being transferred from a holding cell to a courtroom.
Gordon shot and killed bailiffs Joseph Zangaro, 61, and Ronald Kienzle, 63 and wounded Atterberry and a civilian, Kenya Ellis, a security guard at Benton Harbor High School.
Gordon was then shot and killed by other officers who responded to the scene.
Not many people in Coloma, the small Southwest Michigan town where Gordon lived, said Tuesday that they were familiar with him.
At the Easy Street Inn in downtown Coloma, Harry Jannings of Paw Paw and Joe Fellows of St. Joseph said they were both shocked to hear about the courthouse shooting.
“It can happen anywhere,” said Jannings, of Paw Paw. “It’s always shocking when it happens in your front yard.”
Jannings and his wife, Kim, both wondered why Gordon was handcuffed in front of his body instead of behind, and wondered if he would have been able to get a hold of a gun with his hands behind his back.
Joe Fellows and his wife, Kim, live in St. Joseph. Kim Fellows said she has never felt unsafe in her town and still doesn’t, but she felt the shooting magnified the violence against police that is happening all over the country.
I had no idea what he was in trouble for,” said Arthur Moore, owner of John’s Glass and Windows in downtown Coloma. “To hear that it was him was shocking.”
Moore said he knew Gordon because their children went to school together. Gordon volunteered in his daughter’s classroom at Watervliet South Elementary, according to several people who knew him.
“Larry was very involved with Cheyenne, his daughter,” Moore said. Gordon and his wife, Jessica, had divorced in February after nearly 10 years of marriage, according to the Herald Palladium.
“We weren’t even aware they were having trouble,” Moore said. “They were still showing up to functions (together) and they seemed to support each other.”
Jessica Gordon declined to speak to a Kalamazoo Gazette reporter when reached at her home Tuesday. She told the Herald Palladium earlier that she believed her ex-husband was terrified he wouldn’t see his family again. “I don’t believe he set out to hurt anybody,” Jessica Gordon told the Herald Palladium. “I think he just wanted to come home.”
Two doors down from the house Gordon shared with his ex-wife, Carl Neuendorf and his wife, Wathada Thomas said they never had any trouble with him as a neighbor. They weren’t chummy, Neuendorf said, but they knew each others’ names and Gordon would borrow tables for the occasional garage sale.
Neighbors would get aggravated on occasion when his pit bull would get out and roam the neighborhood, and neighbors suspected he was somehow involved with drugs.
“You got a little bit of a funny feeling, you know?” Neuendorf said about Gordon, but said he and his wife believed he was messing with drugs, and didn’t expect to hear the serious charges of criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping he was facing before Monday’s deadly shooting.
“We didn’t have any idea it was on this kind of scale,” Thomas said.
“Nobody was so suspicious of terrible things, except we always thought the drug thing,” Thomas said. “A lot of neighborhoods will have a neighbor that well, he’s just kind of a little bit different, or he’s just kind of watched. People were just kind of interested.”
Thomas and Neuendorf described Gordon as friendly and sociable. He was not a “neighborhood terror,” Thomas said.
Thomas said it was most surprising that Gordon would shoot somebody.
“It’s a shame,” Neuendorf said.