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Ex-cop killed after firing at U.S. courthouse in W.Va.

WHEELING, W.Va. — A retired police officer armed with an assault weapon and a handgun fired up to two dozen shots at a U.S. courthouse on Wednesday before police returned fire and killed him, authorities said.

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

Schwertfeger did not speculate on a motive for the assault on the Wheeling Federal Building. Three on-duty security officers were injured by flying debris during the onslaught, he said.

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

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

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.

People inside the building ducked under desks as the shots struck the building and shattered windows.

U.S. Attorney Bill Ihlenfeld said shots were fired into at least three rooms in his office on the building's second floor. He described hearing gunshots, then panic among staff.

"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.

Ex-cop killed after firing at U.S. courthouse in W.Va. 10/09/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 11:19pm]
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