It was business as usual for Chris Reber Tuesday night. The Pocono Record reporter attended the monthly Ross Township municipal meeting as he normally does.
“I was here to do my job tonight,” Reber said. “To cover the meeting just like I was a month ago.”
But the latest meeting held a tragic significance. It was the first town hall meeting for Ross Township officials since last month’s shooting in which a gunman shot and killed three people.
Reber was there on August 5 at the township building on Anchorage Road in Saylorsburg, Pa. The suspect, identified as Rockne Newell, approached the Poconos-area building armed with a long gun and opened fire through the windows of the building. As he continued to advance, police say Newell, 59, walked in the building where Reber, along with 15 to 18 members of the township supervisor council, were inside. Newell allegedly fired more than two dozen shots from three different spots with his rifle before grabbing a handgun.
Reber, who witnessed the chaotic scene, told the Pocono Record last month that all he saw were holes go through the wall, with smoke and plaster blowing out. He also heard the sound of automatic gunfire.
"I ran out after the first round of shooting. I dropped to the floor. That's what everyone did. ... Then it stopped and I crawled out the side door,'' Reber said. "I was the only person who crawled out. Everyone got behind a table. Some of the supervisors were over on the side throwing up.''
Reber said a woman opened a door to the meeting room "and he (the shooter) was standing there. A man pushed her aside and was shot. People were shot inside the room.''
Police say Newell killed three people -- including one town official -- and injured three others in the rampage.
A witness says the gunman was tackled by a local official and another man and shot with his own gun before being taken into custody.
David Fleetwood, Gerard Kozic and James Laguardia died from the shooting.
The two men credited with stopping Newell, Bernie Kozen and Mark Kresh, attended Tuesday night’s meeting, which was held at the Monroe County Control Center in Snydersville. They refused to talk about what happened last month however.
Reber briefly spoke to reporters after the meeting.
“It’s very tragic as everyone has said tonight,” he said.
When asked to describe what he saw a month ago, Reber’s response was quick.
“No thanks,” he said.
Attendees at the meeting acknowledged last month’s tragedy with a moment of silence for the victims. After that it was back to business. Ross Township supervisors approved a land swap with neighboring Monroe County to gain a new piece of land for a new township building. They'll seek grants to fund the construction. The supervisors also approved hiring a security company for any event that happens at the current township building, which is now vacant. It’s unclear if the supervisors will ever meet there again.
As for Reber, as his refusal to speak on last month’s events indicated, it appears that he’s trying his best to move on.
“I was just here to do my job this evening,” he said. “That’s about it.”