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Date of Issue: December 13, 2007

Police, victim seek motive in shooting

mug-koenigs.jpg
Mark W. Koenigs, 54
hb-shots-mail.jpg
Holmes Beach Police Detective Terri Davis dusts the door of Island Mail & More, marked with crime-scene police tape, shortly after the deliberate shooting incident in which owner Sue Normand was critically injured. She is conversing with Mike Valley from the nearby Edward Jones office at the Anna Maria Island Centre Shops on East Bay Drive (shown below) in Holmes Beach. Normand was taken by Bayflite Medical Transport to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg moments earlier. Islander Photos: Bonner Jo
hb-shots-mail-2.jpg
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An evidence technician videotapes evidence in the MCSO shooting of an armed man on the beach Dec. 5. The man allegedly shot Island Mail & More owner Sue Normand.

“Why shoot me?” Sue Normand wondered aloud as she rested in a bed awaiting surgery in intensive care at St. Petersburg’s Bayfront Medical Center Dec. 6.

The day before, just after Normand opened her Island Mail & More store for business, a man walked in and fired a 9-mm handgun at her.

“There’s just no reason,” said Normand, 63, a Holmes Beach resident, longtime member of the city’s planning commission and volunteer victim’s advocate.

Normand told The Islander that the shooter had been a customer previously and that the incident was unprovoked. “He was courteous. I was courteous.”

About an hour after the Dec. 5 shooting at Island Mail, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies shot a suspect, identified as Mark W. Koenigs, 54, on the beach in the 300 block of Gulf Drive South in Bradenton Beach.

Both the victim and the suspect were taken to Bayfront by medical helicopters. Koenigs was wounded in the ankle, leg and groin. Normand was wounded in the mid-section - a bullet shattered her hip.

Koenigs, currently represented by a public defender, faces multiple felony charges and is scheduled to appear for an arraignment at the Manatee County Courthouse Jan. 18.

Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine said Koenigs has refused to talk about the shooting. Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said the suspect “won’t even talk to the chaplain.”

Investigators, Romine said, were as confused about the motive for the shooting as Normand.

There seemed to be no attempt at robbery, the chief said. A number of businesses in the plaza open earlier than Island Mail & More.

 

Opening for business

Wednesday, Dec. 5, began routinely enough in the Anna Maria Centre Shops on East Bay Drive in Holmes Beach. One by one store clerks and office managers arrived to open their doors for business.

A few people noticed a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt waiting on a bench, but it was chilly that morning. The man held a small box and witnesses suspected he was waiting for Island Mail & More to open.

Bill LaRow, who was working at his wife’s store, Whistle Stop Gift Shop, noticed the man.

“I noticed what I would consider not your normal Islander,” he said. “He had a hoodie or a floppy fish cap.… I saw him get up when Sue opened her store.”

Normand said she arrived to work shortly before 10 a.m. and found several customers waiting outside her store, where she just celebrated a fifth anniversary of shipping parcels, notarizing documents, making copies and offering mail advice.

“I got to work and there were already some people waiting, this fella on a bench. I thought, ‘The season is starting early,’” she said, referring to the rush on mailing Christmas packages.

Normand waited on a couple, Jerry Kirby and Maureen Kirker, and, as she took care of them, she noticed the man she had seen on the bench walk in, out and back in the store.

After assisting the couple, Normand turned her attention to the man, who was wearing a blue sweatshirt.

“I knew I’d seen him before,” she said.

The man placed a small box on the counter as another customer, Bruce Henke, came in and stood by, waiting. Normand said she noticed that there seemed to be something loose in the box.

“It rattled,” said Henke, an attorney from Columbus, Ohio.

Henke said he heard Normand offer the man some packaging - bubble wrap or peanuts to keep the item inside secure. The man said no, just some stamps. Normand, in turn, asked his name and moved to enter his information into her computer.

“He picked this box up,” Normand said, adding that she turned back to face him. “He pulled out a gun. And he shot me. Just like that.”

She remembered only one shot.

So did Henke, who had stepped away from the counter to look around the shop.

“I truthfully only heard one ‘pop,’” Henke said.

He turned and saw the man in the sweatshirt run out the door and Normand fall to the floor behind the counter.

“I couldn’t move,” Normand said.

“I screamed, ‘Call 911!’” she added.

Henke rushed to Normand, stepped over her to reach the phone and called the 911 emergency center.

With instruction from a dispatcher, Henke pressed paper towels he found in the store on Normand’s wound in an effort to hold back the blood.

“I used a bunch of them,” he remembered.

“Everybody showed up in a few minutes,” Normand said.

But for both Normand and Henke, the wait - about four minutes - seemed to pass slowly.

“I was very worried about her, but also heartened by the fact that she was conscious the whole time,” Henke said.

 

‘It was craziness’

Most people in nearby shops and offices didn’t hear the gunfire. But witnesses in the parking lot, as well as the Publix supermarket and neighboring condominiums, reported hearing as many as seven gunshots, leading police to believe that the suspect fired as he walked away.

“I didn’t hear or see anything,” said Dori Reynolds of Dee’s Boutique. “But then the police cars came. It was craziness. One, two, three, in a row. And I thought, ‘What in the world is going on here?’”

Quickly she learned that the “pop, pop, pop” that others heard in the parking lot was gunfire and that her friend had been shot.

Reynolds and Normand have known each other for about three years. “She’s a hard worker,” Reynolds said.

Jackie Estes of Paradise Bagels was arriving to her restaurant as the sirens sounded.

“They were bringing Sue out,” she said, still shaken by the events. “I just spoke to her yesterday afternoon. We were talking about Christmas. She’s a lovely lady and it’s a terrible shock.”

Normand was conscious and later lightheartedly recalled that she noticed HBPD Lt. Dale Stephenson on her way to the helicopter and matter-of-factly said, “Hello.”

As emergency personnel helped evacuate Normand to Bayfront, law enforcement officers with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach police departments searched for a suspect identified at that time as “Mark.”

Residents in neighborhoods south of the plaza received warnings that a man with a gun was on the loose. The trolley service was halted. The school was put on alert, but not on lockdown.

From an MCSO helicopter, the suspect was seen, prompting officers to clear beach areas and block accesses to the Gulf. Officers also set up a perimeter on the beach to corral the suspect.

At about 11 a.m., four MCSO deputies, one HBPD officer, BBPD Chief Sam Speciale and a BBPD sergeant encountered the suspect on the beach behind the Linger Longer condominiums, according to Manatee County Sheriff Brad Stuebe.

Stuebe said police repeatedly told the suspect to show his hands. He eventually removed them from his pockets and showed a chrome gun, which initially was pointed downward.

At some point Koenigs allegedly raised his gun, swirled it, and then aimed the gun.

A probable cause affidavit in the case states, “The defendant raised the handgun, as if to show the officers, with them continuing to order him to drop the weapon. The defendant swirled the handgun several times in his hand, meanwhile the officers continued to order the defendant to drop the weapon.”

The report stated that Koenigs pointed the gun at two deputies closest to him and the deputies fired their own weapons.

Koenigs, who did not fire back, was hit three times and fell on the sand not far from the water.

“I saw them run on the beach and heard three or four shots,” said Bill Shearon, of Linger Longer and a former Bradenton Beach city commissioner.

Shearon’s partner, Tjet Martin, also heard gunfire. She was sitting on the deck facing the beach. “I heard shots - no yelling, just shots - and started running for the staircase,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

Steve Shannon, a server at the BeachHouse restaurant, witnessed the shooting from about 100 yards up the beach.

“I saw first a helicopter came in and was circling around. I saw a guy running. I saw the police officers coming out of the sand dunes and I saw bullets hitting the water,” Shannon said. “Then the guy kind of fell down.… Then a whole bunch of cops came.”

Shannon, at his distance, said he saw something in the suspect’s hand, but he couldn’t say what.

“It was kind of crazy,” he said. “First I started to run over towards it all. I didn’t know what to think. Then I decided that wasn’t a good idea.”

Koenigs was taken by a marine rescue ATV to an ambulance on Gulf Drive that took him to a medical transport that followed the helicopter carrying Normand to Bayfront.

An MCSO news release stated that the two deputies who shot Koenigs were placed on routine administrative leave with pay and “at this time the shooting by the deputies appears to be justified.” An arrest report on the incident identified the deputies as Angel Buxeda and Dennis Mallardi.

After the shooting on the beach, technicians collected evidence from the sand, photographed and videotaped the scene and interviewed law enforcement officers.

Bystanders watched the process from outside the yellow police tape on the beach. And a gathering of news reporters and photographers tracked the action from the edge of the scene.

At the store, HBPD officers collected more evidence, including fingerprints from the door.

 

Healing, hoping

On Dec. 6, Normand underwent surgery to place a plate in her shattered hip.

“There’s damage to the hip but thankfully not to any vital organs,” said Normand, whose condition was listed as “fair” by medical staff.

She seemed in pain, but in good humor. She seemed tired, but concerned about being away from her business, which her son Stephen planned to reopen.

Because of Normand’s ICU status, hospital staff kept get well flowers away from Normand’s room and fielded dozens of calls from friends as she recovered after surgery.

A bouquet and scattered roses rested outside Normand’s store. A greeting card was taped to the door above a sign that read, “We love you Sue! Get Well. Love, Islanders.”

On the plaza sidewalk, people gathered throughout Thursday and Friday to talk about the shooting and their hopes for Normand’s speedy recovery.

“I don’t know her well, but I’m a customer and she was always so nice to me so I wanted to bring flowers,” said Lynn Owens, who left a pink rose.

Normand, who had worked as a real estate broker and business consultant on the Island for years, first opened the doors to Island Mail & More in time for the 2002 holiday season. The idea for the store came to her one day as she was caught on the Anna Maria Island Bridge during a “malfunction.” She was trying to get to the mainland to send an overnight letter. From the urgent trip, Normand decided to go into the “mail and more” business.

Last Thursday, a UPS driver arrived with a package bound for Island Mail & More that would be taken back to the warehouse, he said.

“Unbelievable,” said Amy Hardwick as she passed by on her way to Walgreens. “I never would have thought something like that, so apparently random, would happen. I just feel like I could cry.”

Nicky Hoyt sat outside Paradise Bagels and read about the shooting in a newspaper and shook his head. “Some days I hate what this world has come to,” he said. “So, so mean.”

At the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, prayers for Normand were shared.

“She’s been a member for years,” said chamber president Mary Ann Brockman. “She’s a hard worker, a very hard worker. And she was in the running for small business of the year.… We’re keeping her in our prayers.”

At Holmes Beach City Hall, and among government officials from the Island to the county administration building in Bradenton, Normand was wished the best and highly praised.

Before his election to the Holmes Beach City Commission, John Monetti served with Normand on the planning commission.

“She is one dedicated citizen to our community,” Monetti said. “She certainly believes in community service. The planning commission is an unpaid position and truly in the spirit of community service. She does things truly for the benefit of our city.”

 

Facing charges

Koenigs, who also underwent surgery Dec. 6 at Bayfront, is facing two counts of aggravated assault with a firearm on a law enforcement officer in the case being handled by MCSO. Manatee County Judge Robert Farrance ordered Koenigs held without bail on those charges because of the seriousness of the crime and a pending bench warrant for his arrest in a prior incident.

HBPD, meanwhile, was handling the shooting of Normand for which Koenigs faces an attempted murder charge when he is discharged from the hospital, where he is under 24-hour guard. Hospital officials declined to release his condition following a request from the sheriff’s office.

The suspect’s court record contains traffic citations and a protection order requested by Ramona Brunner of Bradenton. Brunner sought the order against Koenigs earlier this year alleging repeat acts of violence and harassment. Records specifically refer to a criminal mischief incident in April when Koenigs allegedly filled Brunner’s outdoor fountain with soap, causing suds to spill into her yard and damaging the fountain.

The order barred Koenigs from going within 100 feet of Brunner’s car and within 500 feet of her residence in the 300 block of 39th Street Northeast, in the River Pointe neighborhood in Bradenton.

The order, issued in July, also barred Koenigs from using or possessing a firearm or ammunition.

More recently, on Sept. 9,  Koenigs was stopped by Bradenton police for driving with a suspended license.

A bench warrant for his arrest was issued Sept. 11 after Koenigs failed to make a court appearance in the misdemeanor criminal mischief case. A second warrant was issued Oct. 29 after another failed appearance.

Koenigs license listed his residence as 1303 Gulf Drive S., Bradenton Beach, a triplex in which he owns two units, according to Manatee County property records. Few people interviewed in Bradenton Beach knew of Koenigs.

But Koenigs also owns property on 39th Street Northeast, Bradenton, across the street from Brunner, who said she had felt uneasy for the two years that Koenigs has lived there.

Several neighbors in Bradenton described him as annoying, negligent and disruptive. His yard is overgrown with weeds, in contrast with the other kept lawns in the deed-restricted community, and a trailer parked in his driveway rests on concrete blocks, a violation of condo rules that has resulted in a daily fine.

The condominium association brought a suit against Koenigs for back fees, with documents filed in court as recently as November.

“He didn’t really fit in here,” said one neighbor who declined to provide his name. “And I don’t think he tried.”

The Islander’s Bonner Joy and Molly McCartney contributed to this report.

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