Law enforcement agents swarm the Lloyd D. George federal courthouse building
in downtown Las Vegas after Monday’s shooting.
BY JOSEPH BERGER
The New York Times
A gunman in a black trench coat opened fire Monday morning in the lobby of the Federal Courthouse in downtown Las Vegas, killing a court security officer and wounding a deputy United States marshal before fleeing. He was then shot in the head and killed nearby.
Law enforcement officials say the suspect in the Las Vegas shooting at a federal building was upset over losing a lawsuit over his Social Security benefits.
The two officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case, say Johnny Lee Wicks is the man who opened fire at a security checkpoint Monday morning and was shot dead in a gunfight with deputy U.S. marshals.
While the investigation is still under way, the officials say the early evidence points to the man’s anger over his benefits case as the motive for the shooting.
Court records show Wicks had sued the Social Security Administration in 2008, but the case was thrown out and formally closed in September 2009.
The building is a huge structure that houses federal courts as well as other agencies, including the offices of Senators Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader, and John Ensign, a Republican. Senator Reid was in Nevada but not in the building, his office in Washington said.
Police and federal agents poured through the building looking for signs of any other suspects, but none were found.
Two hours after the shooting, the complex was still being evacuated floor by floor, with groups of about 20 people being escorted several blocks away while surrounded by several officers toting large rifles. The courthouse was blocked off for at least a five-block perimeter.
Paramedics rushed at least two people down a ramp to waiting ambulances, where they were taken to the trauma unit of the University Medical Center. Federal officials confirmed that the security officer, who was 65, had died. Roxana Lea Irwin, chief deputy United States marshal for the Nevada district, said she saw shotgun casings on the lobby floor, an indication of the kind of weapon that was used.
Joseph Dickey, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said the gunman died shortly after the shootout, which occurred at around 8 a.m.
The building, the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse, at 333 Las Vegas Boulevard South, is blocks from several casinos, including Fitzgeralds Casino and Hotel and the Plaza Hotel and Casino. It is also close to the University Medical Center and the Valley Hospital Center.
Senator Reid’s office said that his staff was fine. “My thoughts are with the victims of today’s shooting and their families,” Senator Reid said in a statement. “The law enforcement personnel who protect the courthouse put their lives at risk every day to keep the people who are inside safe, and I greatly appreciate their service.”
Steve Friess contributed reporting from Las Vegas.
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