Former partner was first on the scene
WHEELING – Lt. Phil Redford’s adrenaline was rushing Wednesday as he arrived at the scene of a reported shooting at the Federal Building in Wheeling.
The first to arrive on scene, Redford was prepared for the worst, as initial reports indicated the shooter had fired dozens of shots and showed no signs of stopping. Redford, however, wasn’t prepared to identify the shooter – who was fatally wounded by another Wheeling police officer – as his former co-worker and partner, Thomas Piccard.
“I think it goes from the adrenaline rush to almost shock,” Redford said of the moment he realized Piccard was the shooter. “It was shocking, as well as obviously emotional.”
Piccard resigned from the department in 2000. The FBI confiscated his department personnel records as part of its investigation into the shooting, and any details surrounding his resignation have not been released.
However, several current and former Wheeling police officers who worked with and knew Piccard said he was respected within the department and the community, but some mentioned conflicts and “demons” in his personal life.
Redford described him as “professional” and “knowledgeable,” and mentioned a commendation he received for apprehending a fugitive while off-duty. He also spoke highly of his family.
“I can’t say enough about the Piccard family,” Redford offered. “They’re very good, caring people and a great part of the community.”
Deputy Police Chief Martin Kimball, a 32-year veteran of the department, also worked closely with Piccard and said he enjoyed the experience.
“He was intelligent – a good police officer,” he said. “I considered him a friend and I still do today.”
Kimball said he last spoke to Piccard about a year ago, when he still lived in Wheeling. He did not recall Piccard mentioning any details about his personal or professional life.
“Among the officers who knew him, we’re pretty sad,” Kimball related. “We’ll miss him. Just about all of us here who knew him considered him a friend.”
Kimball said there was no contention between Piccard and the police department when he resigned, but that he had struggles in his personal life he could not resolve. He declined to elaborate.
“I’ve heard good reports about his law enforcement abilities,” Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger said. “He was a respected member of the department for a time. I’ve heard about his respect amongst the community members and the quality of his work while he was employed here.”
Though Ohio County Magistrate Harry Radcliffe retired from the police department before Piccard began his career as an officer, he knew Piccard well.
“I thought he was a person who always battled some demons,” Radcliffe said, “but I thought he was a good person and not violent. I’m absolutely stunned, and I’m very sorrowful for his family.”