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Guard Shot Dead in Vegas Federal Building

Law enforcement officers gather south of the Lloyd D. George federal courthouse building in downtown Las Vegas following an officer-involved shooting Monday, Jan. 4, 2010 in Las Vegas. A court officer and the suspect were killed. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)
AP Photo/Isaac Brekken
Last updated 6:35 p.m. Eastern

A gunman opened fire at a federal building in downtown Las Vegas on Monday, killing one court officer and wounding a second before he was shot to death.

The gunfire erupted moments after 8 a.m. at the start of the work week and lasted for several minutes. Shots echoed around tall buildings in the area, more than a mile north of the Las Vegas Strip.

Law enforcement officials say the suspect was upset over losing a lawsuit over his Social Security benefits. The two officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case, say Johnny Lee Wicks is the man who opened fire at a security checkpoint Monday morning and was shot dead in the gunfight.

The court officer who was killed was identified as Stanley W. Cooper, an employee of Akal Security who retired from the Las Vegas Metro Police Department after 26 years.

An Associated Press reporter on the eighth floor of a high-rise building within sight of the building heard a sustained barrage of gunfire.

Nicholas Gramenos, who had a jury summons and was near the courthouse, captured video and audio of the shooting on his cell phone.

Vegas shooting caught on tape

Another passer-by said he counted at least 40 shots.

"The first shot that I heard was a shotgun blast. I knew it wasn't fireworks," said Ray Freres, 59, a sandwich shop manager and Vietnam veteran who said he was behind the federal court building at the time.

"I heard an exchange of gunfire. I was watching the street," Freres told the AP. "If they were coming my way, I was going the other way."

The U.S. Marshals Service said a 48-year-old deputy U.S. marshal was hospitalized.

Cooper, the 65-year-old court security officer who died, had been a court security officer with the U.S. Marshals in Las Vegas since 1994.

U.S. Sen. John Ensign, a Nevada Republican, told reporters it appeared the gunman acted alone and the shooting was not a terrorist act.

"Right now they have no motive established," Ensign told a news conference outside the building. "Bottom line is, he didn't get past security."

Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Roxanna Lea Irwin also said authorities believe the shooter acted alone.

FBI Special Agent Joseph Dickey said the gunman died across the street shortly after the shootout. His body remained for several hours in front of the restored historic Fifth Street School, a sprawling white stucco campus that dates to 1936 and was recently renovated.

Dickey said the shooter used a single shotgun, was wearing black shirt, black pants, and a black jacket. He walked in with the shotgun under his jacket and opened fire.

A total of seven marshals and security officers returned fire, starting in the main foyer, Dickey said. The gun battle spilled out into the front area and then on to Las Vegas Blvd.

John Clark, director of the Marshals Service in Washington, did not immediately identify the officers, but called them heroes.

"The brave and immediate actions of these two individuals saved lives by stopping the threat of a reckless and callous gunman," Clark said in a statement.

Bullet holes marked the entrance of the eight-story modern federal building, which was locked down after the shootout. After police arrived, paramedics helped two people out and down a ramp to ambulances.

A helicopter view showed heavily armed officers in flak jackets scouring the federal building's roof. Shortly afterward, employees in small groups were escorted by armed officers to the auditorium of the Las Vegas Academy, a school three blocks away.

Dickey called the building evacuation "standard procedure" in such an incident.

The gunfire erupted as downtown was busy with office workers and jurors reporting for duty, both at the federal building and the 16-story Regional Justice Center, which houses state and local courts two blocks away.

KLAS Slideshow: Shooting at Las Vegas Federal Building

The state courthouse was evacuated as a precaution and closed for the day, court spokesman Michael Sommermeyer said.

Las Vegas police spokeswoman Barbara Morgan said the shooter had been shot in the head.

"It looks like he went in there and just started unloading," Morgan said.

The Lloyd D. George U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building opened in 2002 and is named for a longtime senior federal judge who still hears cases. It has federal courts covering Nevada and offices for federal officials including Ensign and fellow U.S. Sen. Harry Reid. Neither was in the building at the time, authorities said.

The building was one of the first new federal buildings to be constructed according to safety standards that went into effect after the Oklahoma City bombing, reports KLAS.