Search continues for sniper in judge shooting

Family Court Judge Chuck Weller, 53, was shot in the chest today while he stood near a window on the third floor of the Mills Lane Justice Center.

Family Court Judge Chuck Weller, 53, was shot in the chest today while he stood near a window on the third floor of the Mills Lane Justice Center.

RENO " A family court judge was shot and wounded earlier today as he stood near a third-floor courthouse window, and police sealed off the area and searched nearby parking garages for a sniper.

Judge Chuck Weller, 53, was hit in the chest around midday by a shot or shots that came through his office window at the Mills B. Lane Justice Center, and a woman with him suffered superficial wounds from bullet fragments or glass, authorities said.

Weller was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he was reported in serious condition.

"He is conscious and talking with his family," police spokesman Steve Frady said.

Police closed off six blocks around the courthouse on the edge of Reno's downtown casino district, which otherwise remained open. A SWAT team was called in, and officers conducted a floor-by-floor search of the courthouse and the neighboring parking garages.

"We don't know precisely where that round may have come from, so we have to close down and search a large area just north of the court complex," Undersheriff Mike Haley told KRNV-TV.

Annie Allison, believed to be Weller's secretary, was hit by glass or bullet fragments in her left arm and right hip but her wounds were superficial, Frady said.

Police had no suspects but family court officials speculated the shooter could be someone unhappy with a past ruling in a child custody case. Weller primarily handles child custody and divorces cases.

Weller, a Reno lawyer, was elected to the bench in 2004.

Weller hosted a legal advice program on a Reno radio station from 1989 to 2002 and wrote a legal advice column for a Reno newspaper from 2000 to 2004.

He once led opposition to a county bond issue to build a new courthouse.

After the shooting, city and county employees were kept inside the building because police did not know if it was safe on the streets.

Reno Justice of the Peace Harold Albright, a friend of Weller's, said he was in session in his courtroom almost directly below Weller's office when the shooting occurred after 11 a.m. but he did not hear any shots. He said a bailiff told everyone to remain in the hallway away from windows.

"It's just terrifying. It's very scary. It's speculation, but I would say it was the work of a disgruntled person," Albright told The Associated Press.

"Family court judges take people's children away and take property away. Those are such basic decisions that are very emotional. It's still very shocking. He's a nice guy and real hard working. I can't imagine he would be gruff or disparaging to anyone in his courtroom. He's not a brusque, grumpy person."

Darin Conforti, court administrator of Reno Justice Court, agreed.

"The incident is shocking but the risk is not shocking. We're well aware this is the inherent risk of trying to solve conflicts. Sometimes you don't solve them peacefully and people take the law into their own hands," he said.

The new courthouse addition housing the family court and the district attorney's offices opened earlier this year. It is named after Mills Lane, the former Washoe County district attorney, judge and boxing official who became famous for his syndicated television show.

- Associated Press writers Martin Griffith and Tom Gardner also contributed to this report.


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