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Eyewitnesses Describe Vegas Shooting, 'At Least 40 Shots'

The AP via YellowBrix

January 05, 2010

LAS VEGAS – A man dressed in black opened fire with a shotgun at a federal building yesterday in downtown Las Vegas, killing a court security guard and wounding a U.S. marshal before he was shot to death in a running gunbattle across the street.

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 kilometre north of the Las Vegas Strip.

A passerby 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 court building at the time.

“I heard an exchange of gunfire. I was watching the street,” Freres said. “If they were coming my way, I was going the other way.”

Related: Raw Video of the Shootout >>>

The U.S. Marshals Service said the victims included a 48-year-old deputy U.S. marshal who was hospitalized and a 65-year-old court security officer who died.

The dead guard was Stanley Cooper, a retired Las Vegas police officer employed by Akal Security.

Two law enforcement officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case, said the gunman, 66-year-old Johnny Lee Wicks, was upset over losing a lawsuit over his Social Security benefits.

U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., told reporters it appeared the shooting was not a terrorist act.

“Bottom line is, he didn’t get past security,” Ensign told a news conference outside the building.

Wicks opened fire in front of a set of security metal detectors just inside the rotunda of the federal building, FBI Special Agent Joseph Dickey said.

“From what witness accounts have said, he walked in with a shotgun underneath his jacket and opened fire when he opened the doors,” Dickey said. “Seven officers responded and returned fire.”

A YouTube video recorded the sound of the running firefight as Wicks retreated across Las Vegas Blvd. toward another federal building and a school.

“I could see guards and everything coming out, and then all of a sudden I just started hearing pop, pop, pop. I mean, just like 30 or 40 shots,” said Troy Saccal, a tax services manager who was arriving for work at the time.

Saccal said he thought he saw one guard slump to the ground and another move to help him.

The gunman died moments later in the bushes outside school, where his body remained for several hours.

A Las Vegas police spokesman said he had been shot in the head.

Video of the Incident >>>

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