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Dallas attack stirs memory of 2010 Las Vegas courthouse ambush

It’s been nearly 10 years since a man in a trenchcoat walked into the Las Vegas federal courthouse, reached under his jacket, pulled out a shotgun and yanked on the trigger, blasting off a round that boomed like a canon in the building’s lofty main lobby.

Security guard Stan Cooper was struck just as he stood up. The 72-year-old normally checked people’s IDs as they walked through the metal detector. Now he was slumped on the ground, lifeless.

“Is this for real?” Cooper’s partner, Arthur Gennaro Jr., remembers thinking as he ducked, staring at Cooper on the ground next to him. “Is this a test? Did somebody put this guy up to this to test our reaction?”

The gunman fired twice more.

“Unfortunately, it was real,” continued Gennaro, now 71 and retired.

In the wake of the Dallas federal courthouse shooting Monday, Gennaro spoke to the Las Vegas Review-Journal for the first time about a similar attack in Las Vegas on Jan. 4, 2010.

In Dallas, officers killed the gunman, but no one was injured. In Las Vegas, Cooper was killed and a deputy U.S. marshal was injured.

The Las Vegas courthouse gunman, Johnny Lee Wicks, died across the street after a shootout with law enforcement. Authorities believe he held a grudge against the federal government, formed after he lost a federal lawsuit over the denial of some disability benefits.

Gennaro himself fired 12 rounds at Wicks once he got his bearings and noticed that the gunman was trying to reload.

“It was like, seconds,” Gennaro said of the attack. “He just nonchalantly walked in.”

U.S. Marshal Gary Schofield was on the Las Vegas police force at the time and responded to the courthouse that morning. He said it marked the first time the Metropolitan Police Department deployed MACTAC, a multi-agency active shooter response plan implemented after the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.

“What sticks out to me was how fast we had to get there and how fast we had to secure the entire building,” said Schofield, who happened to know Cooper as a former Las Vegas police officer.

Gennaro said a policy change after the attack made it mandatory that all courthouse security guards wear bulletproof vests.

Schofield also said the response taught Metro to send medical personnel in with officers during a mass casualty incident. That adjustment was tested Oct. 1, 2017, the night of the Route 91 Harvest festival attack, when hundreds of Las Vegas officers teamed up with paramedics and firefighters to clear hotels on the Strip.

Built about 10 years before the courthouse shooting, the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse has a blastproof design, making it the first major courthouse in the nation to meet updated General Services Administration standards implemented after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Two marshals working the day of the 2010 attack still work at the courthouse, Schofield said. A memorial for Cooper now sits in the Las Vegas lobby.

Contact Rachel Crosby at rcrosby@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3801. Follow @rachelacrosby on Twitter.

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