West Bloomfield Gunman's Neighbors Shocked and Saddened
Residents returned home Monday night to find bullet holes in the family room, shell casings on the front lawn.
Neighbors of Ricky Nelson Coley on Tuesday recalled his pride of his home and his friendly temperament after a shocking, 15-hour standoff which ended with the death of a West Bloomfield Police Officer and Coley's suicide.
In-between dealing with emotions of grief and the destruction of the situation to her North Woods Forest home, Jeannie Zimbalatti said she finally did find time to sleep Monday night after a "haunting" morning.
Zimbalatti, 52, lived next door to Coley to the east of his home on the 4500 block of Forest Edge, purchased in 2004 for $850,000. She said that she and her husband, Michael Waring, likely knew Coley best in the small neighborhood, bordered heavily by the wetlands and woodlands of the West Bloomfield Trail.
"It's so hard to think now, that we used to stand outside on our decks, right next to each other, and chitchat," Zimbalatti said Tuesday morning. "You can see a bullet hole right near it. It’s hard for us to wrap our heads around this, because we knew Rick in a different way and we don’t have an unkind thing to say about him, his wife, or his son."
The Detroit Free Press reports that social media pages apparently belonging to Foley show he was a military veteran who held an MBA and worked at Ford Motor Company until sometime in 2008.
According to court documents obtained by Patch, Coley's ex-wife was granted a divorce, and possession of their home, on Sept. 4. She was also awarded custody of their 7-year-old son.
According to documents, Coley was at fault for the end of the marriage "due to infidelity, physical, mental, emotional and psychological abuse."
Majib Ayar, 59, lived next door to Coley on the west side of his home. He said that while he had known of the couple's pending divorce, he was unaware of any incidents which could have predicated such violence.
"You wouldn't think someone like that would do such a thing," Ayar said. "It seemed like he had a great life."
In addition to the divorce, federal court documents show Coley is the defendant in a civil case filed in August by the U.S. Department of Labor, over benefit payments that the government alleges were collected from employees of a firm in which Coley and his firm, CNC Holdings, LLC, had a majority interest. Foley and his firm were also named in a March civil suit over a bankruptcy filing for that same business.
"I think, with the economy, perhaps, things spiraled out of control in such a short period of time," Zimbalatti said. "Like many people, he may not have been emotionally-equipped to deal with it. I’m sure there are lots of people that can relate to that experience, but obviously not with the same end result."
'Spiraled out of control'
However, Zimbalatti said that she knew there was no joke when Officer Patrick O'Rourke knocked on her door Sunday night. West Bloomfield Police responded to a report of a gunshot fired and a possible domestic incident, according to Lt. Tim Diamond.
"Rick was a good neighbor. But then the other side of coin is that on Sunday night, at 10:30, and this is what’s torturing me, is that Officer O'Rourke came to the door and told us to turn the lights off and take cover," Zimbalatti said.
"He did an act of kindness. As he was walking away, I was thinking to myself, I wanted to say to him, please be careful. But I didn’t say anything. The last exchange I had with him, you know?"
Diamond said that as police arrived to the second floor of Coley's home, they were shot at "ambush-style" from behind a closed door, through drywall. Police have not released how many times he took fire. Paramedics were immediately called and O’Rourke was taken to McLaren Oakland Hospital in Pontiac, where he was pronounced dead.
"The humvees started arriving, the SWAT team came," Zimbalatti said. "I was absolutely calm through the whole thing. At that point, we didn’t know if anyone had been killed. My husband is a hunter, and he said that he knew what kind of guns were being used by the sound, and that really spooked him."
"They drove us out past the police barricade and when I asked if everyone was OK, they didn't seem like they wanted to tell me that Officer O'Rourke was killed. It didn't seem like long at all. It's haunting to think about it. I've thought it through and through."
From there, it was a long night for area residents. According to Township Clerk Cathy Shaughnessy, many — incuding Ayar and Zimbalatti — sought refuge from nearby family. Some 12 other families, Shaughnessy said, slept at Town Hall.
Although police of various entities attempted to negotiate with Coley through the night, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said that Coley's pattern showed someone who was shooting at any noise or motion. Zimbalatti and her husband could hardly sleep.
"We just sat on the couch and tried to talk," she said. "I may have gotten one or two hours. I don't think Mike slept at all."
Sunrise came and went, while gunfire continued. After an incident Monday morning in which Coley shot at a Michigan State Police-supplied robot which attempted to make contact with him, Bouchard said, he believes that Coley committed suicide in his bedroom.
A portion of the home was destroyed in the afternoon, Bouchard said, allowing robotic cameras to see into the bedroom that Coley lay motionless on the bed. Families began arriving back home Monday afternoon, with most back by Monday night, Zimbalatti said.
Now, what is sure to be a difficult healing process is set to begin.
O'Rourke, a 12-year WBPD veteran, was a married father of four. He is a 1991 graduate of Hartland High School and later moved to the Fenton area. West Bloomfied Police Lt. Tim Diamond said it may be the first police fatality in the department's history.
A public candlelight vigil for O’Rourke is planned for 7:45 p.m. tonight in front of the West Bloomfield Township Police Department at 4530 Walnut Lake Road.
Details involving Coley's body, his wife, and son, were not available to media by police.
Patch local editors Tatum Ryan and Joni Hubred-Golden contributed to this report.