One year ago Thursday, Thomas Piccard of Bridgeport went to the Federal Building in downtown Wheeling and opened fire. After a short exchange with law enforcement, he was taken down.
“One of my assistants ran down the hall yelling at everyone to get away from the windows,” said United States Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld.
“It’s not a call you hear on the radio, or come across very frequently, even in a lengthy career,” Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger said.
The 55-year-old gunman fired shots from his assault rifle, coming within inches of striking a court officer. Since this date a year ago, steps have been made to strengthen security procedures to avoid another situation like this.
Chief Schwertfeger said the Wheeling Police Department has tweaked some of their range training as a result of the incident. He added the take down of the shooter was due to a great working relationship between all agencies involved. United States Attorney William Ihlenfeld said he feels safe coming to work every day, but now he and his employees are more observant. Ihlenfeld said he has been working closely with the Court Security committee that serves the building to find ways to enhance security.
“Despite what happened here a year ago today, we feel very safe. It might be the safest building in the city of Wheeling, but we are all more aware of what’s going on outside of the building,” he said.
The motives of Piccard are still unclear, but Ohio County Magistrate Joe Roxby weighed in with his opinion. “When you think about it, this was a guy who protected the streets for a lot of years and suddenly, oddly, very much a reversal in roles for him to do something like that. My very first impression when I heard the circumstances of it were this was suicide by cop,” he said.