Two court bailiffs were killed and a deputy was injured Monday after an inmate grabbed an officer’s gun outside a holding cell in a Michigan courthouse, Berrien County Sheriff L. Paul Bailey said.
The inmate made it into a public hallway, where he shot a civilian in the arm, Bailey said. Other law enforcement officers opened fire and killed the man, he said.
The deputy and civilian suffered non-life threatening injuries and were treated at Lakeland Health in St. Joseph and are in stable condition, Bailey said.
Bailey wouldn’t say why the inmate was in custody, which officer had the gun that was taken or whether any protocols were violated. The slain officers worked “a long time” in law enforcement and had served as bailiffs about 10 years each.
“Our hearts are torn apart,” Bailey said. “They were our friends. They were our colleagues. I’ve known them over 30 years.”
The shootings occurred days after the slaying of five police officers in Dallas. Authorities didn’t mention any connection to the those killings, but Gov. Rick Snyder said, “This is a particularly tough time for law enforcement so I ask everybody to reach out and be supportive of law enforcement.”
The shooting happened about 2:30 p.m. on the third floor of the Berrien County Courthouse in St. Joseph, located on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, as a deputy and a bailiff removed the inmate from a holding cell to take him to a courtroom, Bailey said.
“They secured the door and the inmate started fighting with the bailiff and the deputy,” he said.
The inmate disarmed one of the officers, Bailey said. He killed the two bailiffs and wounded the deputy before running into the public corridor, where other officers shot and killed him.
Bailey said he didn’t know whether the inmate was handcuffed. The courthouse will be closed on Tuesday while Michigan State Police investigate.
St. Joseph is a town of about 8,300 on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, about 35 miles north of South Bend, Indiana, and some 100 miles by car from Chicago.