Conyers pastor's father killed in Pa. mass shooting

6:04 AM, Aug 7, 2013   |    comments
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  • James "Vinny" LaGuardia was killed in a gunman's rampage
  • Dr. Joe LaGuardia is the victim's son

CONYERS, Ga. -- As many woke up Tuesday morning to news of another senseless mass shooting, a Conyers pastor found out the news hit right at home.

One of three people killed in the tragic shooting in tiny Saylorsburg, Pa., was the father of Dr. Joe LaGuardia, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Conyers.

It happened Monday night in the small town in the Poconos. James "Vinny" LaGuardia, 64, of Saylorsburg got caught in a gunman's rage, a rage he had nothing to do with.

RELATED | 3 shot dead at Pa. town meeting; shooter tackled 

News of the tragedy quickly spread among leaders and members of Trinity Baptist: their spiritual and community leader lost his father.

The church's choir director Pastor Darrell Palmes said Dr. LaGuardia is not only a spiritual leader, but a community leader, and it's time for the community to return his compassion.

"We want to show him the same exact thing right now," Palmes said. "He's always pouring out to individuals and it's important to us as a community to rally together and pour into him in his moment of bereavement."

Rockne Newell, 59, was apparently upset after his property was condemned and opened fire with a long gun in the monthly meeting of the Ross Township Board of Supervisors. Three people were killed, three others wounded, but it could have been worse.

Pennsylvania State Police said Newell walked back to his car, got a handgun, and walked back to the meeting when two citizens jumped him and wrestled him to the ground.

"They wrestled with him in an attempt to subdue him even while he was firing rounds from that 44 magnum revolver," Lt. Col. George Bivins said.

Dr. LaGuardia sent a letter to church members that read:

I write with a sorrowful and heavy heart that I received news last night (Monday) that my father was killed in a fatal incident involving a gunman who stormed a town hall meeting that my father was attending. Three were killed and several more injured.
I can't explain the grief and shock I am feeling right now. And though I had a sleepless night, I have received great comfort throughout the morning hours knowing that God has blessed me with a church family who knows how to pray and comfort one another. I've said it more than once, and I'll keep saying it: Thank you, Trinity, for simply being you.

Trinity Baptist Church will hold a prayer service Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. A church official said a collection will be taken at the service to help the family with funeral costs. The funeral will be held in the LaGuardia family's native New York.

You can follow Kevin on Twitter @kgrowson

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