The father of the man accused of killing three people and injuring two others during a shooting at a Pennsylvania town meeting claims his son was pushed to the breaking point by town officials.
Rockne Newell, 59, allegedly used a Ruger Mini-14 rifle to blast a barrage of gunfire through a wall into a municipal building during a town meeting Monday night in Ross Township, about 85 miles north of Philadelphia. He then allegedly entered the room and shot a supervisor and four residents, two of whom survived.
Newell then retreated to the car and picked up a revolver, authorities said. When he returned to the meeting room, the 5-foot-10, 240-pound suspect was tackled by two men and shot in the leg during the scuffle, officials said. He was then taken to the hospital before being placed in police custody, according to officials.
"I wish I killed more of them!'' Newell shouted when state Trooper Nicolas De La Iglesia arrived on the scene before 8 p.m., according to the trooper's affidavit.
While the suspect’s father, Peter Newell, admits his son was the shooter, he also doesn’t blame his son for what he did.
Instead he claimed his son was harassed by Ross Township officials for 23 years over the condition of his property.
“It’s just a shame that everyone had to die for this,” Peter Newell said. “If they had just left him alone.”
Last June, the Pocono Record published an article describing an 18-year fight between the township and Newell over the property, which includes an old camper filled with wooden pallets, a leaning garage close to collapse and a propane tank inside an old dog house.
Township supervisors voted in February 2012 to take legal action against Newell for allegedly violating zoning and sewer regulations. In October, he set up a fundraising page online to try to raise $10,000 for legal fees
"Ross Township took me to court & the court ruled I have to vacate my home of 20 years,'' Rockne Newell wrote on the page. He said he lived on $600 a month in Social Security benefits and had no money to clean his property.
Rockne Newell told the newspaper he was unemployed for years after an injury from a crash and had nowhere else to go.
“They pushed him to the point where he snapped,” Peter Newell said. “I knew this was going to happen.”
Peter Newell claims he warned the Sheriff’s Deputies three weeks ago that his son was going to kill people.
“I told them, ‘people are going to be dying over this because he is just furious,’” Peter Newell said. “They just pushed him into it. It’s no excuse for murder but they pushed him to the point. I’m just telling you what he told me.”
Todd Martin, the Sheriff of Monroe County, denies this however.
"That is totally untrue," he said. "That is not what he said. There were no threats made whatsoever toward any supervisor or elected official. Threats were made toward us because we are the ones who are responsible for the eviction to be sure people are off the property."
Martin says Peter Newell should have done a better job of warning authorities about his son's intentions. He also says state police may question the elder Newell about exactly how much he knew about his son's alleged plans.