- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Two people, including a court officer, were killed in a gunfight at a Las Vegas federal court building on Monday, the same day the Justice Department in Washington issued a report saying threats to federal judges and prosecutors had more than doubled in the past six years.

A 66-year-old shotgun-wielding man dressed in black opened fire at the Lloyd D. George U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building shortly after 8 a.m., igniting a gunfight that lasted several minutes and ended with one court officer being killed and a second wounded before the gunman was fatally shot.

Federal law enforcement officials identified the shooter as Johnny Lee Wicks, who they said was upset over cuts in his Social Security benefits. The officials, who asked not to be identified, said Wicks recently retired and had brought a lawsuit against the government over benefits that were reduced. He lived in a Las Vegas retirement home.

An Associated Press reporter on the eighth floor of a high-rise building within sight of the courthouse, about a mile north of the famed Las Vegas Strip, heard a sustained barrage of gunfire, and a passer-by reported counting at least 40 shots.

“The first shot that I heard was a shotgun blast. I knew it wasn’t fireworks,” Ray Freres, 59, a sandwich shop manager and Vietnam veteran, told the AP. “I heard an exchange of gunfire. I was watching the street. If they were coming my way, I was going the other way.”

The U.S. Marshals Service in Washington identified the dead man as Stanley Cooper, a 65-year-old retired Las Vegas police officer employed by Akal Security.

The Marshals Service identified the other victim as a 48-year-old deputy U.S. marshal. His name was not immediately made public.

The shooting began in front of a set of security metal detectors just inside the courthouse’s main rotunda, said FBI Special Agent Joseph Dickey in Las Vegas.

“From what witness accounts have said, he walked in with a shotgun underneath his jacket and opened fire when he opened the doors,” Mr. Dickey said. “At this point, we believe it was a lone gunman in a criminal act, not a terrorist act.

“We are conducting an investigation to follow up on this to determine why this person did what he did today. Seven officers responded and returned fire,” he said.

Las Vegas police spokeswoman Barbara Morgan said the shooter had been shot in the head.

The shooter’s body remained for several hours in front of a restored historic school across from the courthouse. The AP reported that bullet holes marked the entrance of the eight-story modern federal building, which was locked down after the shootout.

A helicopter view showed heavily armed officers in flak jackets scouring the federal building’s roof. Shortly afterward, employees in small groups were escorted by armed officers to the auditorium of the Las Vegas Academy, a school three blocks away.

Marshals Service Director John F. Clark called the two officers heroes.

“Words cannot express our concern and sorrow for all those impacted by this tragedy,” he said. “Rest assured, the brave and immediate actions of these two individuals saved lives by stopping the threat of a reckless and callous gunman who had no regard for who or how many victims were struck down by his senseless actions. They are heroes.”

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