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Las Vegas Courthouse Shooting Killing Johnny Lee Wicks and Officer Cooper Photos by Robert Paisola

Las Vegas Courthouse Shooting Killing Johnny Lee Wicks and Officer Cooper Photos by Robert Paisola

LAS VEGAS - A man dressed in black walked into a federal building yesterday in downtown Las Vegas and opened fire with a shotgun, killing a court security guard and wounding a US marshal before he was shot to death in a running gun battle.The gunfire erupted moments after 8 a.m. at the start of the work week and lasted for several minutes.

Shots echoed around tall buildings in the area, more than a mile north of the Las Vegas Strip. A reporter on the eighth floor of a high-rise within sight of the federal building heard a sustained barrage of gunfire.
A passerby said he counted at least 40 shots.

“The first shot that I heard was a shotgun blast. I knew it wasn’t fireworks,’’ said Ray Freres, 59, who said he was behind the federal court building at the time.

“I heard an exchange of gunfire. I was watching the street,’’ Freres said. “If they were coming my way, I was going the other way.’’

The US Marshals Service said the victims included a 48-year-old deputy US marshal who was hospitalized and a 65-year-old court security officer who died.

Authorities identified the gunman as Johnny Lee Wicks.

The dead guard was Stanley Cooper, a retired Las Vegas police officer employed by Akal Security, said Jeff Carter, spokesman for the Marshals Service in Washington. Cooper, who was shot in the chest, was a police officer for 26 years and became a federal court security officer in Las Vegas in 1994.

Authorities did not immediately release the name of the wounded marshal.

Officials said Wicks was upset over losing a lawsuit concerning Social Security benefits. He sued the Social Security Administration in 2008, but the case was thrown out and formally closed in September 2009, according to court records.

US Senator John Ensign, a Nevada Republican, told reporters that it appeared the gunman acted alone and the shooting was not a terrorist act. Chief Deputy US Marshal Roxanna Lea Irwin also said authorities believe the shooter acted alone.

The man, dressed in black pants, shirt, and jacket, opened fire in front of a set of security metal detectors just inside the rotunda of the federal building, FBI Special Agent Joseph Dickey said.

“From what witness accounts have said, he walked in with a shotgun underneath his jacket and opened fire when he opened the doors,’’ Dickey said. “Seven officers responded and returned fire.’’

A video posted on YouTube recorded the sound of the running firefight as the man retreated across Las Vegas Boulevard toward another federal building and a historic school.

“I could see guards and everything coming out, and then all of a sudden I just started hearing pop, pop, pop. I mean, just like 30 or 40 shots,’’ said Troy Saccal, a tax services manager who was arriving for work at the time.
Saccal said he thought he saw one guard slump to the ground and another move to help him.
The gunman died moments later in the bushes outside the restored Fifth Street School, where his body remained for several hours.

A Las Vegas police spokeswoman said the man had been shot in the head.

John Clark, director of the US Marshals Service in Washington, called the officers heroes. “The brave and immediate actions of these two individuals saved lives by stopping the threat of a reckless and callous gunman,’’ Clark said.

Alina Shell, a lawyer in the federal public defender’s office, said she didn’t see the shooting, but heard it. “There was a lot of gunfire,’’ she said in an e-mail, “and there was no mistaking where it was coming from.’’
Bullet holes marked the entrance of the eight-story modern federal building, which was locked down after the shootout and closed for the day.

After police arrived, paramedics helped two people out and down a ramp to ambulances.
The structure was touted as the first federal building built to comply with blast resistance requirements following the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City

Authorities described the gunman in Monday's fatal shootout at the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse as a "disgruntled" man with a lengthy rap sheet that includes charges of murder, drug possession, sexual assault and domestic violence spanning three decades. Johnny Lee Wicks, 66, set fire to his apartment at 5 a.m. on Monday, walked three miles to the courthouse on Las Vegas Boulevard, pulled out a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun from his black trench coat and opened fire, killing court security officer Stanley Cooper and injuring another before being fatally shot in the head across the street. A total of 81 rounds were shot, officials said.
During a joint news conference Tuesday with the FBI, Metro Police and the U.S. Marshals Service outside the courthouse, FBI special agent in charge Kevin Favreau said Wicks was arrested for murder in Memphis in the 1970s and picked up on various drug charges in the 1980s, also in Memphis.
He also said Wicks was arrested in Sacramento in 1995 on sexual assault and domestic violence charges, and again in 1996 on robbery and domestic violence charges. Dickey declined to provide further details.
Authorities also said that Wicks, who was black, was "disgruntled" with the court system after his pro se lawsuit -- accusing federal officials of racial discrimination after his Social Security benefits were reduced -- was dismissed by a judge who serves in the federal courthouse.
"He was angry at his government and decided to settle the disagreement by killing," Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie said. "An act such as this cannot be predicted. A lone gunman on a suicidal mission is nearly impossible to prevent."
Officials said seven officers - four U.S. deputy marshals and four court security officers - were involved in the shooting. Surviving officers were placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, Gillespie said.
Officials also said Wicks was armed with more than five rounds of ammunition, but only managed to fire three shots inside the courthouse and two more from the Fifth Street School across the street. Gillespie declined to say how much ammo Wicks was carrying.
Favreau called the officers involved in the shooting heroes "who in the heat of battle stood their ground and protected the innocent people inside."
Cooper, 72, was described as a "quiet" man with two sons and "a dedicated professional who dedicated his life to public service" by U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden. Cooper had 26 years of experience with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and 15 years as a court security officer. Funeral arrangements weren't immediately known.
Bogden also said the other injured officer was released from the hospital. Officials declined to identify him.
The federal courthouse and the nearby Regional Justice Center were under lockdown Monday after the shooting. Both reopened Tuesday.
The orange, spray-painted outline marking where Wicks died from a gunshot to the head remained outside the Fifth Street School on Tuesday morning, and several bullet holes could be seen in the building's windows and walls.
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