Criminal Justice

Las Vegas Courthouse Shooter Had Served Time for Killing His Brother


The 66-year-old man who walked into a Las Vegas courthouse and opened fire had served six years in prison for killing his brother in 1974.

Johnny Lee Wicks was killed Monday in a shootout that began after he entered the federal courthouse lobby around 8 a.m., drew a shotgun he had hidden under a black trench coat, and killed a court security officer, authorities said. Three hours before that, he had torched his apartment.

Wicks was apparently motivated by anger over losing a suit that had challenged a cut in his Social Security benefits.

Stories by the Associated Press, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and the Memphis Commercial Appeal detail Wicks’ criminal past.

Wicks killed his brother after an argument escalated over whether his motorcycle could outrun his brother’s car, according to the Commercial Appeal account. Wicks had claimed he killed his brother in self defense, although no weapon was found near the body. He was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 55 years in prison. On appeal, the sentence was reduced to 12 to 15 years, and Wicks was paroled after serving six years.

Wicks also served jail time after pleading no contest to a domestic battery charge in California.

Authorities believed Wicks was on a suicide mission when he entered the Lloyd D. George U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building.

His shooting spree on Monday killed court security officer Stan Cooper, a 72-year-old retired Las Vegas police officer, according to the Review-Journal and AP. Earlier reports had said Cooper was 65. An unidentified deputy marshal who was also shot was treated and released after an overnight stay in the hospital.

Security officers and U.S. marshals who pursued Wicks fired 81 shots, according to Kevin Favreau, special agent in charge of the Las Vegas FBI office. He said Wicks had an “overwhelming anger toward the United States government.”

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