Exclusive: Wounded Nevada Judge Speaks Out on Shooting

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A Nevada Family Court judge allegedly shot by a millionaire businessman angered over the handling of his divorce says judges need more protection at the courthouse.

"In family courts, there's more raw emotion than a lot of other things," Judge Chuck Weller said to "Good Morning America" anchor Charles Gibson in an exclusive interview.

"I think every Family Court judge -- perhaps every judge in America -- has a list of people in their mind they fear could become violent. And that's an issue about judges right now because we have had the family of a judge in Chicago [killed]. We had a judge in Atlanta shot."

The suspect, Darren Mack, is in jail and awaiting trial, charged with murder in the June 12 slaying of his wife, Charla, and attempted murder in Weller's shooting that day.

Police say Mack, a 45-year-old father of three, used a high-powered rifle to shoot Weller, who had presided over the couple's bitter divorce case for more than a year. The couple were fighting over the custody of their 8-year-old daughter.

Weller was shot as he stood in front of a window on the third floor of the courthouse in Reno, Nev.

He was struck in the chest by a single bullet shot from a parking garage or apartment building about 300 yards away, police say. Weller's administrative assistant, who was also in the room, was hit by shrapnel.

"I threw myself to the ground," Weller said. "You do a quick inventory when you are down there and think to yourself, 'I suspect I'm alive.' I took myself out of the room as quickly as I could with the help of a bailiff. I had my family called right away to make sure they were out of my home."

At a news conference on Tuesday, Weller said that he had concerns he was being harassed before the shooting.

Disturbing comments about him had been posted on a blog, his dogs had been barking at strange noises around his house, and someone had listed his home address as the location of a motorcycle auction in a local newspaper ad.

Judges at Risk

Weller's shooting came more than a year after two high-profile attacks on judges.

In February 2005, Federal Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow in Chicago found the bodies of her husband and mother in her basement.

The person responsible for the slayings killed himself and left a note confessing the slayings and indicating that Lefkow had ruled against him in a civil case.

Judge Rowland Barnes was killed in an Atlanta courthouse in March 2005 when a suspect stole a deputy's gun and shot him.

Weller said there was a problem with the United States' democracy if judges were intimidated and harmed.

Courts, he said, need to hire better bailiffs to protect the judges and purchase bulletproof windows for courthouses.

"I understand the Senate passed a bill on protecting judicial officers," Weller said.

On the Run

Weller kept his family in hiding while the alleged shooter Darren Mack was on the run.

Mack eluded authorities for 11 days before turning himself in to Mexican authorities on June 22.

Before Mack's surrender, a family member begged him to stop running and his case aired on "America's Most Wanted."

"He was aware, if you will, things were tightening around him that led him to contacting his attorneys, them contacting us," said Reno police Chief Michael Poehlman.

Mack's cousin, Jeff Donner, said that Mack had called him while on the run.

"'If anything happens to me, don't forget your promise,'" Donner said of his conversation with Mack. "'Put out to the press the word on Weller. The rest of the world has to know just how oppressive he [Weller] is.'"

If convicted of murder, Mack could face the death penalty.

Before assuming the bench more than a year ago, Weller worked as a Reno attorney for 27 years.

He was shot in 1978 when he was a bystander in a Washington, D.C., bank robbery.

ABC News' Charles Gibson reported this story.

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