A gunman opened fire at a federal building in downtown Las Vegas on Monday, killing one court officer and wounding a second before he was shot to death.
The gunfire erupted moments after 8 a.m. at the start of the work week and lasted for several minutes. Shots echoed around tall buildings in the area, more than a mile north of the Las Vegas Strip. An Associated Press reporter on the eighth floor of a high-rise building within sight of the building heard a sustained barrage of gunfire.
A passer-by said he counted at least 40 shots.
"The first shot that I heard was a shotgun blast. I knew it wasn't fireworks," said Ray Freres, 59, a sandwich shop manager and Vietnam veteran who said he was behind the federal court building at the time.
"I heard an exchange of gunfire. I was watching the street," Freres told the AP. "If they were coming my way, I was going the other way."
The U.S. Marshals Service said the victims included a 48-year-old deputy U.S. marshal who was hospitalized and a 65-year-old court security officer who died.
U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., told reporters it appeared the gunman acted alone and the shooting was not a terrorist act.
"Right now they have no motive established," Ensign told a news conference outside the building. "Bottom line is, he didn't get past security."
Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Roxanna Lea Irwin also said authorities believe the shooter acted alone.
FBI Special Agent Joseph Dickey said the gunman died across the street shortly after the shootout. The man's identity and motive were not immediately known. His body remained for several hours in front of the restored historic Fifth Street School, a sprawling white stucco campus that dates to 1936 and was recently renovated.
John Clark, director of the Marshals Service in Washington, did not immediately identify the officers, but called them heroes.
"The brave and immediate actions of these two individuals saved lives by stopping the threat of a reckless and callous gunman," Clark said in a statement.
Bullet holes marked the entrance of the eight-story modern federal building, which was locked down after the shootout. After police arrived, paramedics helped two people out and down a ramp to ambulances.
A helicopter view showed heavily armed officers in flak jackets scouring the federal building's roof. Shortly afterward, employees in small groups were escorted by armed officers to the auditorium of the Las Vegas Academy, a school three blocks away.
Dickey called the building evacuation "standard procedure" in such an incident.
The gunfire erupted as downtown was busy with office workers and jurors reporting for duty, both at the federal building and the 16-story Regional Justice Center, which houses state and local courts two blocks away.
The state courthouse was evacuated as a precaution and closed for the day, court spokesman Michael Sommermeyer said.
Las Vegas police spokeswoman Barbara Morgan said the shooter had been shot in the head.
"It looks like he went in there and just started unloading," Morgan said.
The Lloyd D. George U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building opened in 2002 and is named for a longtime senior federal judge who still hears cases. It has federal courts covering Nevada and offices for federal officials including Ensign and fellow U.S. Sen. Harry Reid. Neither was in the building at the time, authorities said.
The structure was touted as the first federal building built to comply with blast resistance requirements following the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times