WHEELING, W.Va. -- Security was tight Thursday at a West Virginia federal courthouse, a day after it was peppered with gunfire by an ex-police officer who neighbors say had recently revealed that he had cancer.
Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger said Thomas J. Piccard, 55, of Bridgeport, Ohio, was armed with an assault weapon and a handgun Wednesday. Standing across the street in a parking lot, he got off up to two dozen shots at the building in the small West Virginia panhandle city before law enforcement shot him to death, officials said.
Schwertfeger did not say whether Piccard used both weapons during the assault on the Wheeling Federal Building or speculate on a motive. Officials said they had no knowledge of any sort of note left behind.
Residents in the neighborhood around Piccard's trailer home in Bridgeport, a few miles west of Wheeling, returned to their homes by Thursday morning. They were told to leave while police searched Piccard's home, although authorities didn't give a reason for the evacuation.
"We're not going to discuss what we found. It's standard procedure. I really can't comment on that," said FBI spokeswoman Kelly Kochamba in Pittsburgh.
Trailer park residents Mahlon Shields and Lori LeMasters told The Associated Press that Piccard had disclosed in the past few days that he had stomach cancer.
Shields, 25, who has lived across the street from Piccard for about a year, said the man appeared to be thin and pale. Shields said a neighbor told him that Piccard wanted to go to Florida to die.
"I don't think he wanted to hurt people," Shields said. "I think he was afraid to commit suicide."
LeMasters said she cut Piccard's grass the past two summers and got paid $10 because Piccard didn't have a lawnmower. She said he wasn't talkative and lived alone.
At the three-story gray federal building, yellow crime scene tape was wrapped around the entrance and barricades were still in place. Just one judge was hearing cases and the courthouse was open only to workers and people with appointments. The building in the city of about 28,000 houses a variety of courtrooms and related offices, including those for judges, prosecutors and law enforcement.