WHEELING, W.Va. — A retired police officer armed with what federal marshals described as an assault-type rifle fired up to two dozen rounds at a West Virginia federal courthouse Wednesday until police returned fire and killed him, authorities said.
Mayor Andy McKenzie said two security officers within the Wheeling Federal Building were hurt by flying debris, but there were no other injuries.
State police spokesman Sgt. Michael Baylous confirmed that the man died from police fire but did not have his identity or any details about him.
McKenzie said police who briefed him told him the man was a 20-year-plus veteran of the force who retired 13 years ago. He said the retired officer's name was not being released immediately.
Investigators were seeking a search warrant for the gunman's home in hopes of determining a motive and if he acted alone, said Chief Deputy Mike Claxton of the Marshals Service in northern West Virginia.
Asked if the gunman had any beef with the U.S. government, Claxton said, "We're really digging hard at this point to find out."
Claxton said the man 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 judges, prosecutors and law enforcement.
Carla Webb Daniels told media outlets she was in her attorney's office nearby when she heard loud gunshots. She saw the gunman fire from a bank parking lot across the street.
"I was so nervous, I couldn't believe it," Daniels said. "People were scared and were banging on the doors asking to be let in."
The three-story gray federal building remained cordoned off Wednesday night, surrounded by a heavy police presence in the city along the Ohio River in West Virginia's northern panhandle about 60 miles southwest of Pittsburgh.
David Wohlfeil, the owner of the Metropolitan City Grill near the courthouse, said he ran outside after he heard the first round of shots. He heard two more volleys of gunfire then ran back inside.
"I told everyone to get in the basement and then called 911," he said, adding that police arrived while he was on the phone.
Wheeling has been hit by layoffs in the steel industry and its population dropped by 9.3 percent from 2000 to 2010 to about 28,500 people.
McKenzie said the shooting underscores the fact that even small cities like Wheeling are "not immune to national problems."
"Things like this aren't just happening in large cities, in this country we need to do a better job on mental health," he said.
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