On Sept. 19, 2018 at approximately 6:30 p.m., a lone gunman walked into a local retirement home, shot and killed both of his elderly parents before fleeing the scene.
Bruce Rogal, a 59-year-old man from Glenmoore, PA, murdered both of his parents at Bellingham Retirement Community in East Goshen Township after also firing multiple shots at his ex-wife earlier that day. It was noted that he received his final divorce papers earlier on that day and discovered he lost his house and several other possessions to his wife in the divorce process. Enraged, he drove to her house and fired six shots at her while she changed the oil of her car in the driveway. She was unharmed, although several surrounding houses were hit with bullets.
After the first attack was attempted, Rogal drove from West Bradford Township to East Goshen Township to find both of his parents who were both in their late 80s. Their residence was the Park Lane section of Bellingham and, around 6:15 p.m., Rogal invaded their apartment where he shot and killed his parents. Following the shooting, Rogal fled the area in his 2002 Honda Odyssey leading authorities on a statewide search in neighboring counties, as well as other states.
As a resident of East Goshen township, I witnessed a considerable amount of the action in my neighborhood as well as other neighborhoods nearby. Surrounding Bellingham, police blockades prevented any person from leaving or entering the area. Most people could not get back to their homes due to the entrances to their neighborhoods being blocked. Several helicopters were also in the area as it was rumored that the gunman could be hiding in surrounding wooded areas or even residential yards. East Goshen Township issued a lockdown ordinance for all civilians to stay inside and to keep doors locked as safety precautions. Helicopters hovered around the area for several hours before they started to spread out in a way that looked like they were searching for Rogal.
All residents and employees at Bellingham also remained on lockdown for several hours as police swept the building trying to find any accomplices, which there were none. Many servers and other employees were high school students at local schools such as West Chester East and Bishop Shanahan High Schools. A father of one of the students was actually apprehended trying to sneak into the building to get his daughter out for her own safety.
All local restaurants were also shut down including a nearby Wawa, which was notified to be on alert and for customers to head home and to stay inside. One local bystander, Frank Camarano, said, “This guy is crazy. To have the whole township losing their minds? Just goes to show that the world is real even inside our little bubble of East Goshen; anything can happen to anybody.” Another local woman who lives in the neighborhood across the street from Bellingham, Barbara Gall, was extremely worried. “How could you not be scared? A gunman who kills his own family right across the street? I had a son who worked there, and for the families of the people still inside, words can’t even describe the fear they must feel. I’d be in tears, terrified,” said Gall in response to being asked whether or not she was scared.
As the story developed, Rogal was on the move in and out of neighborhoods throughout Chester County until his car was discovered driving in Embreeville near the old police barracks. After being tracked, Rogal led police on a chase throughout the Downingtown area. SWAT teams were also called in to make ensure that Rogal would be caught. He led authorities on a chase back to his origin of his crime, his ex-wife’s house where he had been hours before shooting at her in her driveway. Rogal then crashed his car into her house and authorities surrounded the area. Rogal was killed by a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
His ex-wife, who chose to remain unnamed, was not at the house at the time the chase concluded. Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan was quoted saying, “Bruce Rogal is dead. There is no ongoing threat in Chester County. All law enforcement personnel are unhurt. It is a tragedy that the defendant killed his elderly parents. All of the first responders did a tremendous job under enormous pressure. Details will follow at a later time.”
This particular case has put countless people on edge who live within Chester County in light of all of the shootings going on in cities around the world. For those concerned with gun-related issues, there is a voice within our county that has been speaking on the subject of gun violence for some time now. GunSense, a local Chester County group trying to bring gun violence awareness to light, is showcasing a presentation on WCU’s campus Saturday Oct. 6. The meeting will start in Main Hall at 9:30 a.m. and will cover topics such as Advocacy Tactics, Gun Laws, Community and many more. GunSense suggests coming to their presentation if you are looking to get more involved. In 2017 alone, eight people were killed by gun violence in Chester County and another 26 by gun suicide.
Chris Sheehan is a fourth-year student majoring in professional studies with minors in journalism and graphic design. CS873291@wcupa.edu.