Courthouse security to be reviewed nationwide

WASHINGTON — Authorities will review the security at federal court entrances nationwide after gunman Johnny Lee Wicks opened fire inside the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse on Monday, a senior official said today.

The U.S. Marshals Service will evaluate protections at more than 400 courthouses and buildings that house court offices, said Michael Prout, assistant director for judicial security.

The reviews will focus on the entryway checkpoints where visitors are screened. In Las Vegas, that’s where Wicks, shortly after 8 a.m. Monday, began firing a 12-gauge shotgun he had hidden under his trench coat.

Court security officer Stan Cooper, 72, was shot in the chest and killed.

Wicks was killed in a gunbattle as marshals and security officers returned fire.

“Our focus will be the concern over an active shooter approaching a checkpoint,” Prout said.

"Our number one issue is to ensure that people who are intent to harm inside the courthouse cannot get in,” he said.

Court buildings range in age, with some of the oldest dating to the Civil War. Security requirements vary depending on when they were built or renovated. In some, security is installed in consideration of a building’s historic features, Prout said.

The Marshals Service “adapts each facility to make sure we provide the highest security level possible at the entry,” he said.

“While we aim to make them as secure as it is in Las Vegas, we have to take a look and make sure that is the case.”

The Las Vegas courthouse opened in 2000 with heightened security, including features designed to protect against a truck bomb like the one that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

Prout said the schedules for the reviews are being developed. They will be conducted by teams in each city.

“Unfortunately we lost an officer,” he said. “But at the same time we were able to repel an active shooter who was unable to get past the security checkpoint.”

U.S. Marshal Gary Orton, who heads the Las Vegas office, said Tuesday that the agency would review what happened and change security measures if needed. He would not specify what those changes might be.

Chief U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt commended the actions of the security staff Monday morning.

“It was a herculean effort by everybody,” he said.

The judge said the marshals hold regular court security meetings with representatives from every agency inside the building to discuss security concerns. Monday’s shooting would certainly be on the next agenda, he said.

“Things like this always heighten your concern, but I feel everyone is doing everything they can to ensure our safety,” Hunt said.

Review-Journal reporter Brian Haynes contributed to this report.

Contact Stephens Media Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at 202-783-1760.

 

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