Share This Page

Leaders in Leetsdale, Moon, Sewickley reflect on Northeastern Pa. municipal shooting

| Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Leetsdale officials were talking about upgrading security at the borough building on Beaver Street before a man fatally shot three people Aug. 5 in a northeastern Pennsylvania municipal building.

“That could happen anytime, anywhere,” Leetsdale Council President Joe McGurk said.

McGurk said leaders in Leetsdale, with about 1,200 residents, last month considered requiring visitors to be buzzed into the borough building.

Leetsdale leaders talked about building security again the night after an attack that left three people dead, including a township official, in Ross Township, Monroe County — about 85 miles north of Philadelphia.

Suspect Rockne Newell, 59, is in custody.

Newell had been involved in a dispute with township officials over a dilapidated property. During the incident last week, he was tackled to the ground and shot with his own gun, police said.

McGurk said he wants to move forward with plans to make the borough building safe.

“We could do that with no problem,” he said. “But we wondered if constituents might think it's like Fort Knox. It's not uncommon in municipalities to have longstanding issues with residents.”

Residents upset over property issues come into the Moon municipal building every day, township manager Jeanne Crease said. “These issues are very emotional to people,” she said.

Police attend Leetsdale and Moon officials' monthly meetings as a safety precaution and occasionally to participate in the proceedings.

While no major incidents have occurred in Moon, Crease said, a speaker alarmed administrators and elected officials at a meeting last year.

“A resident signed up to speak and, at the end of the meeting, came up to address the board, put a pair of dark sunglasses on and blue rubber gloves,” she said. “He was speaking unclear but was referencing an abortion issue.

“Just by the nature of his behavior, it was very alarming.”

Moon's police chief stood behind the speaker until he was finished, Crease said. “It was a vivid reminder to us of how vulnerable we are,” she said.

In Sewickley, the borough building is open but secure as residents travel between the two main floors, borough manager Kevin Flannery said.

Cameras placed around the building help police and leaders keep an eye on safety, he said. Flannery said more cameras could be added.

But, he said, incidents such as the shooting “could happen anywhere.”

David Sanko, who heads the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, said municipal officials are “on the front lines, protecting their communities and the health and safety of their residents.”

“Sometimes, the front line is a dangerous place. Danger, while rare, is at times the price of public service.”

In Moon and Robinson, administrators work behind secure areas, leaders said.

Providing for the safety of Leetsdale employees is one reason McGurk said leaders there could discuss improving security.

Limiting access to local government in the name of safety could be a disservice to residents, Crease said.

“That's what makes this country what it is — that you can walk into a local meeting and talk to your elected officials,” she said. “You can't walk into the state House or a courthouse with a gun. But it's not that way on the local level.”

Bobby Cherry is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or rcherry@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.