WHEELING, W.Va. — The ex-police officer who opened fire on a federal courthouse in West Virginia was a trained shooter who knew how to kill, yet federal officials said Thursday that he waved people away moments before he started spraying bullets into the glass facade and was later shot dead by law enforcement.
Neither the FBI nor federal prosecutors would discuss the motive for 55-year-old Thomas J. Piccard's assault. But neighbors revealed Piccard had recently told them he was dying of cancer.
Mahlon Shields said his sickly looking neighbor told several people in their Bridgeport, Ohio, trailer park, about 5 miles from the courthouse, that he was dying of stomach cancer and planned to spend his final days in Florida.
"I don't think he wanted to hurt people. I think he was afraid to commit suicide," Shields said. "I believe it was suicide by cop."