Chief justice orders court security studies following deadly shooting

CARSON CITY — Judges throughout Nevada will conduct studies to determine whether additional security measures should be taken at local and state courthouses, Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Parraguirre announced today.

“We have seen what can occur and we need to be sure we can protect our judges, court staff and citizens,” Parraguirre said.

The announcement comes after Monday’s gunbattle at the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse in Las Vegas in which two people were killed, including a security officer.

Marshals and security officers fired 81 shots at a fleeing, shotgun-wielding man who had shot and killed Stan Cooper, 72, inside the courthouse and wounded Deputy U.S. Marshal Richard “Joe” Gardner, 48. The assailant, Johnny Lee Wicks, 66, ended up dead next to the historic Fifth Street School across the street from the courthouse.

Federal authorities already are conducting a nationwide review of federal courthouse security as the result of the shootout.

“The incident in Las Vegas shows that we must be attentive, responsive, and prepared,” Parraguirre said. “Courts across the country, including those in Nevada, have experienced an increase in threats to judges in recent years. We can’t and don’t take those threats lightly.”

A bill sought by the court system that passed in the 2009 Legislature boosted the filing fee on civil cases by $20 to provide resources for court security improvements.

In Elko, the funds are being used to purchase metal detectors and an X-ray scanner for the courthouse.

Because of security concerns, the Supreme Court earlier provided metal detectors to rural courts in Wells and Jackpot.

“Many of Nevada’s rural counties have aging courthouses that were not constructed to cope with today’s security concerns,” Parraguirre said. “And even in the state’s more populous counties, the courts struggle every day to provide adequate protection for those who work in and visit the facilities.”

Besides county and city courts, the security study also will look at security at the state Supreme Court Building in Carson City.

Parraguirre will ask the U.S. Marshal’s Service to assist in the study.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at or 775-687-3901.