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Gunman Who Fired Assault Rifle in Ark. Courthouse May Have Targeted Judge in His Divorce Case

Posted Sep 14, 2011 2:47 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A man who fired at least 70 rounds from an assault rifle and three semi-automatic handguns yesterday at an Arkansas courthouse may have targeted the Crawford County judge who presided over his divorce and child custody case, reports the Times Record.

After James Ray Palmer, 48, asked to speak to Circuit Judge Gary Cottrell and was told Cottrell wasn't there he reportedly began shooting and wounded the judge's secretary in the leg. Palmer died later that afternoon, after he was shot during a gun battle outside the courthouse with Van Buren police and sheriff's deputies. He had no criminal record.

There were no other fatalities, although authorities discovered after the shooting that someone—probably Palmer himself, they say—had used timed incendiary materials to set Palmer's home on fire prior to the courthouse shooting. Palmer carried the weapons into the courthouse—which had no security guards or metal detectors yesterday but is likely to have them in the future—under a trench coat, which also concealed his tactical vest filled with ammo, according to 5News.

The only connection between Palmer and Cottrell, it appears, was Palmer's divorce, which Cottrell oversaw. The Times Record says the case took place in 2008, but the 5News article says the case dates back to 2001.

“This guy came heavily armed. He came here for a mission," said Sheriff Ron Brown. "When all the pieces are put together in this case the public will see, this man came to die on the Crawford County Courthouse lawn. He was going to take as many people as he could with him."

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Armed with Assault Rifle, Man Shot Ark. Judge’s Secretary at Courthouse, Died After Gun Battle"

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