The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

National News

October 10, 2013

Ex-cop killed after firing at U.S. courthouse

WHEELING, W.Va. — Investigators said they are trying to determine why a retired police officer fired up to two dozen shots at a federal courthouse in West Virginia on Wednesday before officers returned fire and killed him.

Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger identified the gunman as Thomas J. Piccard, 55, of Bridgeport, Ohio. He was a retired Wheeling police officer.

Piccard was armed with an assault weapon and a handgun. But Schwertfeger did not say whether Piccard used both weapons during the assault on the Wheeling Federal Building or speculate on a motive. Officials said they had no knowledge of any sort of note left behind by Piccard.

Three on-duty security officers were injured by flying debris during the onslaught, he told a news conference.

Investigators were seeking a search warrant for Piccard’s home in hopes of determining a motive and if he acted alone, said Chief Deputy Mike Claxton of the U.S. Marshals Service in northern West Virginia.

Asked if the gunman had any beef with the U.S. government, Claxton said, “We’re really digging hard at this point to find out.”

Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie said police who briefed him earlier Wednesday told him that Piccard was a 20-year-plus veteran of the force who retired 13 years ago.

Claxton said a man later identified as Piccard began firing from a parking lot across from the federal building. “He was observed in the parking lot very quickly after the first shots were fired,” he said.

The building houses a variety of courtrooms and related offices, including those for judges, prosecutors and law enforcement.

Officials said it was too early to tell whether Piccard was targeting anyone in the building or what his motive may have been.

“That’s still trying to be determined,” said Bob Johnson, the assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Pittsburgh office.

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