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IRS Agent's Apparent Suicide Shocks Officials

March 03, 2000|H.G. REZA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Authorities on Thursday were baffled by what they believe was the suicide of IRS agent Charles Richardson, who shot himself in the head while on duty at the Ronald Reagan Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Santa Ana.

The agent's death shocked federal law enforcement officials, who described him as "meticulous and detail oriented." Santa Ana police, who responded to the shooting Wednesday, said Richardson, 42, suffered a gunshot wound to the head.

On Thursday, the Federal Protective Service assumed control of the investigation. The FPS is the police branch of the General Services Administration, which operates all federal buildings.

Jim McDonald, FPS chief of Southern Field Operations in Los Angeles, said Richardson's death "looks like a suicide" but investigators are still awaiting autopsy results. He declined to say whether Richardson left a suicide note.

Sources said Richardson worked as an IRS agent for 13 years, investigating criminal cases out of the agency's Santa Ana office. He mostly worked special assignments, including complicated money-laundering cases, federal sources said.

Santa Ana police, who conducted the initial investigation, said there was no evidence that another person was involved in the incident. A handgun was recovered at the scene, but investigators refused to say if it belonged to Richardson.

Witnesses said they saw Richardson enter a supply and copying room about 11 a.m. The automatic door closed behind the agent, and moments later they heard a gunshot.

"Obviously, it looks like a suicide, but we're awaiting the autopsy reports," McDonald said. "The investigation is still open. We've got several people to talk to. If he killed himself, we're going to have to pin down why."

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