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Man charged with township shooting

A man has been charged with homicide and other counts after police say he shot and killed three people during a municipal meeting in rural Pennsylvania amid a property dispute with the township.

State police say 15 to 18 residents and town officials were at the Ross Township meeting in the Pocono Mountains when the gunfire erupted. The gunman, 59-year-old Rockne Newell, was tackled to the ground by two people and was shot with his own gun, authorities said. He was taken to hospital with a gunshot wound to the leg.

Newell appeared in court charged with three counts of homicide and two counts of attempted homicide. The judge asked if he owned any property and Newell said: "No, they stole it from me. That's what started all this."

State police are still investigating at the municipal building and are searching Newell's home. Authorities have scheduled a news conference to give updates in the case.

Two people died at the scene and a third died after being flown to hospital. Police confirmed that at least one of the dead was a township official but declined to give additional details. A fourth person, a woman, was in surgery with undisclosed injuries.

Investigators said Newell began shooting as he approached the building and continued as he walked into and through it. He then went back out to his vehicle in the car park, retrieved a handgun and went back into the building, firing more shots, police said.

Newell had been in a long-running dispute with township officials over the dilapidated condition of his property, state police Captain Edward Hoke said. The township supervisors voted in February last year to take legal action against Newell for violating zoning and sewer regulations, according to meeting minutes posted online.

The ramshackle property includes an old camper van in the front yard filled with wooden pallets, pieces of what appear to be old railway sleepers and rubbish. A garage is leaning and appears close to collapse, and a propane tank sits inside an old dog house.

In June, the Pocono Record wrote a story about what it said was an 18-year fight between the township and Newell over his property. Monroe County Court in August 2012 sided with the township and ordered Newell to vacate and never again occupy or use the property unless he had the permits to do so. The report said Newell had been living out of a car and in abandoned buildings since being ordered to vacate.

"They have no right to kick me off my property," he told the newspaper. "They call my property an eyesore. When I bought it, it was one of only three properties on the entire road that didn't have what they call junk."

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