Court Security

Judge Says Courthouse Shooter's Assault Rifle Jammed as He Pulled the Trigger, Saving 3 Women

But for a jammed assault rifle, a man who fired 70 rounds at an Arkansas courthouse last week almost certainly would have done much greater damage, the judge who apparently was targeted in the attack tells a local newspaper.

The assault rifle, which had a laser sight, jammed not once, not twice, but three times as James Ray Palmer, 48, aimed at three different women in the Crawford County courthouse and pulled the trigger, Circuit Judge Gary R. Cottrell tells the Press Argus-Courier.

Only one woman, who worked as a secretary to Cottrell, was shot in the Sept. 13 attack, suffering a non-life-threatening leg wound. Palmer died within hours of being shot outside the courthouse during a gun battle with police.

He initially asked for Cottrell at the courthouse, but the judge happened to be absent that day, nursing a knee injury at home. It appears that Palmer targeted the judge because Cottrell had presided over his divorce case more than a decade earlier.

“When he was before me, I wrestled control from him, and he probably did not care for that,” Cottrell told the newspaper. “He did not like it that he was no longer in control, and for more than 10 years it kept eating on him. He lost his job, and he apparently blamed it on me when in fact I had very little contact with him at all.”

CNN links to courthouse security footage that captured some of what happened.

Earlier coverage: “Court Spree Shooter Allegedly Abused Wife Long Ago, Looked for Judge Who OK’d 1999 Protective Order”

Updated at 2:20 p.m. to include CNN link to security footage.

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