Shooter harbored hatred of government
WHEELING – On the day he fired 26 rounds into the Federal Building, Thomas Piccard had five pages of writings on his person that revealed his “deep hatred for the federal government,” U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld II said Thursday.
Speaking during a press conference at his office inside the Federal Building, Ihlenfeld said 55-year-old Piccard, a former Wheeling police officer, parked his car in the lot on the other side of Chapline Street before opening fire on the building at 2:43 p.m. on Oct. 9.
He fired 23 rounds from a 7.62 mm-style assault rifle, and three more from a Glock 9 mm pistol before he was fatally struck by returning gunfire from responding officers, about six minutes after the first shots were fired.
Ihlenfeld said Piccard first shot toward the top floors of the glass facade of the Federal Building. When security guards inside walked to the first-floor window to investigate, Piccard fired more rounds which pierced the glass just inches from the guards.
Ihlenfeld said it is impossible to know if Piccard was firing at the guards, or if he could even see them. He noted, however, eyewitness reported seeing Piccard waive away vehicles that pulled into the parking lot that day, and that he appeared “calm” in his actions.
Piccard purchased the rifle six days before the shooting from a licensed firearms dealer in the Ohio Valley, Ihlenfeld said. A background check was performed and the dealer was authorized to make the sale.
Piccard also bought two extra magazines and six boxes of ammunition that day. He paid the $799 bill with a credit card. More ammunition was found in Piccard’s car.
He bought the pistol in 2011, again from an authorized local firearms dealer. That dealer also performed a background check and was authorized to make the sale.
The five pages of writings were found by medical personnel at the hospital where Piccard was pronounced dead. He sustained damage to the arm, heart and lungs, and the fatal bullet pierced his chest cavity and lodged in his ribcage.
Ihlenfeld declined to provide specific details about the writings, noting Piccard’s actions that day do not merit a public venue for his sentiments.
“I don’t think he’s entitled to or deserves a platform to express his thoughts or ideas,” Ihlenfeld said. “He had the ability to do that in other ways and I’m not going to give him that platform today.”
In addition to the writings that were found on Piccard’s person, the U.S. Attorney offered two other “important points that may help piece all of this together.” He said Piccard recently had his “heart broken” by a woman, while the former police officer was also in deteriorating health.
Piccard’s neighbors at a trailer park in Bridgeport said he had lost a lot of weight and had been vomiting blood. Ihlenfeld could not confirm that Piccard had been diagnosed with stomach cancer, but said additional findings from the medical examiner may be made available to investigators soon.
During a search of Piccard’s home hours after the shooting, investigators found a World War II-style souvenir grenade, which was of “no threat whatsoever,” Ihlenfeld said. Also, a variation of the phrase “Abandon hope all ye who enter this place” was written in Latin on the exterior of the trailer. There were no hazards discovered inside the residence.
The General Services Administration is soon expected to repair the Federal Building windows that were struck by gunfire.
Ihlenfeld did not know if the replacement glass will be bulletproof.
“It all comes down to funding,” he said, “and whether or not there’s funding available to improve the safety of this building. I hope that there is.”
Ihlenfeld did not know if Piccard was employed at the time of the shooting or his last known place of work.
He resigned from the Wheeling Police Department in July 2000.