Gunman fires AK-47 at federal courthouse, is shot to death
Updated: A former Wheeling police officer fired multiple shots at a federal courthouse in West Virginia on Wednesday, and was then shot in a battle with security officers and local police and died within hours at a nearby hospital.
Authorities said suspect Thomas Picard fired an AK-47 assault rifle at the Wheeling facility at about 2:45 p.m., driving up and initiating the attack from a nearby parking lot and reloading at least once, according to the Associated Press, the Charleston Gazette and Metro News.
Glass shattered as responding officers exchanged gunfire with the suspect at the building, which houses judges, prosecutors and law enforcement personnel. Witnesses reported hearing dozens of rounds. However, aside from two security officers wounded by debris, no one inside the Wheeling Federal Building was hurt, officials said.
“We were all working and heard gunshots outside the building,” U.S. Attorney Bill Ihlenfeld told Metro News. “Windows were struck. We have a plan within the office where everyone goes into a safe room away from the windows. We took those steps.”
Ihlenfeld said shots were fired into at least three rooms in his offices on the building’s second floor, reports a subsequent Associated Press article.
“Members of my staff were crawling on the floor or running from office to office telling people to get away from the windows,” he said.
Carla Webb Daniels said she was visiting her attorney’s office when shots reverberated. She then saw the shooter fire at the courthouse from a bank parking lot, the Charleston Daily Mail reports.
“I was so nervous, I couldn’t believe it,” Daniels said. “People were scared and were banging on the doors asking to be let in.”
The motive for the shooting is unknown. Ihlenfeld said he had himself known Picard before he left the police force, and told the AP there was no federal investigation of Picard or any other reason why Picard would be targeting the U.S. Attorney’s office.
“In fact, I’m confident in saying, he did not have a specific beef with anyone in particular in the federal building,” said Ihlenfeld in a another interview. “He didn’t have a beef with me or anyone in my office or anyone else that works here.”
Neighbors of Picard told the AP he had recently revealed that he had stomach cancer.
Chief Deputy Mike Claxton of the U.S. Marshals Service in northern West Virginia said authorities plan to obtain a warrant and search the suspect’s home, to try to determine why Picard shot at the building and whether anyone else was involved. Picard reportedly has not been part of the Wheeling police force since 2000.
In addition to the AK-47 assault rifle he used in the shooting, Picard also had a Glock pistol, the Gazette reported, relying on information from U.S. Marshal Patrick Sedoti.
Updated on Oct. 10 to include and accord with information from subsequent ABAJournal.com post and Associated Press article.