A bullet struck this elementary school window across from the courthouse.… (Paul Sakuma / Associated…)
The 66-year-old disgruntled retiree who killed one person and wounded another at a federal courthouse in Las Vegas on Monday had an extensive criminal history, including a conviction for the murder of his brother in the 1970s, authorities said Tuesday.
These and other details emerging about the life of the gunman, Johnny L. Wicks, paint a portrait of an angry, often violent man who more than once claimed that he had been persecuted because of his race.
In 1976, he was sentenced to 12 to 15 years in prison after being convicted of second-degree murder in his brother's slaying in Memphis, said Dorinda Carter, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Corrections. Wicks was paroled in 1981.
In 1995 he pleaded no contest and served jail time for spousal abuse in Sacramento. A year later, he faced robbery charges, which were later dismissed.
Wicks was accused of assault to commit rape in 1989, but it's unclear how that case was resolved. The FBI is still investigating his criminal history, said Joseph Dickey, a special agent with the FBI's Las Vegas Division.
On Monday, officials said, Wicks was on a suicide mission. At 5:05 a.m., he set fire to his apartment and then walked, clad in a black leather trench coat, three miles to the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse. Minutes after 8 a.m., he opened fire inside the entrance to the courthouse with a Mossberg shotgun.
He fired three rounds inside the courthouse and two rounds outside.
Killed was Stanley Cooper, 72, a court security officer who was a policeman for more than a quarter-century. A 48-year-old deputy U.S. marshal was wounded, hospitalized and later released.
Seven officers returned fire, following Wicks outside and across the street, where they fatally shot him in the head.
Officers fired a total of 81 shots, said Kevin Favreau, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Las Vegas Division, at a news conference Tuesday.
Interviews with people who spent time with Wicks indicate he was very angry with the government, Favreau said.
In 2008 Wicks filed a complaint against a regional Social Security Administration commissioner, alleging that his monthly benefits had been reduced because he was black. "It's all about race," he wrote in the complaint, although he cited no evidence. "I am no fool."
A lawyer for the Social Security Administration responded in court documents that Wicks' payments had been cut because, as a Nevada resident, he was no longer entitled to a supplement he had received while living in California. The lawyer also said that Wicks had not taken advantage of Social Security's system of appeals. A judge threw out the case in September.
But that wasn't the first time Wicks filed a complaint due to race.
In a 1998 small claims court filing, Wicks wrote that he had been evicted from a downtown Fresno apartment building, "Because I am Black," the Associated Press reported.
Gary Orton, the U.S. marshal for Nevada, said Tuesday that Cooper's death was tragic and senseless.
"There was no way to determine that there was going to be an attack," he said.
Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie echoed Orton's words. "A lone gunman on a suicide mission cannot be prevented," he said.
Daniel Bogden, the U.S. attorney for Nevada, described Cooper as a quiet man who was "one of those wonderful people who could touch your life."