Vegas Court Shooter Johnny Lee Wicks Set Condo on Fire Before Attack

Johnny Lee Wicks, 66, had sued Social Security claiming "race discrimination."

ByABC News via logo
January 4, 2010, 12:08 PM

Jan. 5, 2009 — -- The senior citizen who is being blamed for a Las Vegas courthouse shooting that killed a security officer had set his condo on fire in a fit of rage before the attack.

Friends and family told ABC News that Johnny Lee Wicks, 66, was so upset that his monthly Social Security check was being reduced that he set fire to his home in a gated retirement community around 5 a.m. Monday.

Wicks died in the shootout at the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse, shot and killed by court officers who returned fire, according to FBI Special Agent Joseph Dickey. A U.S. marshal who was wounded remains in stable condition.

Wicks, who was black, had sued the Social Security Administration for "race discrimination," claiming his benefits were unfairly reduced.

While officials have not publicly discussed a motive for the shooting, investigators learned Monday that Wicks had a dispute with a Social Security officer who worked in the courthouse. According to court documents obtained by ABC News, Wicks filed suit against the Social Security Administration in 2008.

The case was thrown out in 2009, according to the documents.

The shooting occured just as the courthouse was opening for the day and jurors were filing into the building.

A local food vendor told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he heard two or three "pops" just after 8 a.m. Monday and then more rounds of shots that "went in cycles."

"It sounded like a fireworks show," said Jon McGovern, who estimated that he heard at least 30 to 40 exchanges of shots.

McGovern told the paper that after the shooting groups of people were running away from the courthouse screaming, "Get down, get shelter."

U.S. marshals spokesman Jeff Carter identified the deceased court security officer Monday as Stanley W. Cooper, who worked for Akal Security after serving for 26 years in the Las Vegas Metro Police Department.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family," Carter said.