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Local official, two others shot dead in Pennsylvania land dispute

By Joe McDonald

SAYLORSBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - A zoning official and two local residents were shot dead when a man losing his condemned home in rural Pennsylvania shot his way into a town hall meeting, authorities said on Tuesday.

Rockne Newell, 59, targeted those he blamed for losing his property, which was condemned in a dispute over sewage, said Monroe County District Attorney E. David Christine, Jr.

Killed in Monday night's assault on the monthly meeting of the Ross Township board of supervisors were zoning officer David Fleetwood, 62, and James LaGuardia, 64, and Gerard Kozic, 53, residents of Saylorsburg who were awaiting their turn to conduct business before the board, Monroe County Coroner Robert Allen said.

Court documents showed that Newell has been sparring with local officials for more than 17 years over the Ross Township property and property in nearby Hamilton Township. Both are small towns about 90 miles north of Philadelphia.

Eighteen council officials and residents were at the meeting at Ross Township municipal building when the shooting occurred, police said.

The Pocono Record newspaper, which said one of its reporters had witnessed the shooting, reported that the shots had been fired through a wall and into the meeting.

"I saw smoke and plaster flying out, blowing out through the walls," reporter Chris Reber wrote in a firsthand account of the shooting. The noise was "like a string of firecrackers."

Police said Newell may have been shot in the leg, but they were unable to confirm his condition.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Toni Reinhold)

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