RENO, Nev. – A family court judge was shot and wounded as he stood near a third-floor courthouse window Monday, and police were looking for man suspected in a slaying across town who had appeared before the judge in a divorce case.
Chuck Weller, 53, was hit in the chest around midday by at least one shot that came through his office window at the Mills B. Lane Justice Center, authorities said. He 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.
Investigators said Darren Roy Mack, a suspect in a slaying reported later in the day at a Reno apartment building, was a "person of interest" in the shooting at the courthouse, Reno Deputy Police Chief Jim Johns said.
Mack "had recent dealings with the judge and the family court section" in a divorce case, Johns said, calling it "an obvious connection."
But, he said, police "do not have enough information to say he is a suspect" in Weller's shooting.
Police also reported that a bomb-sniffing dog had alerted officers to the judge's car in the court's parking garage. A bomb squad was investigating.
After the shooting, 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.
The attack on Weller "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," said Darin Conforti, court administrator of Reno Justice Court.
A woman believed to be Weller's secretary was hit by glass or bullet fragments in her arm and hip, but her wounds were superficial, Frady said.
Mack worked at a Reno jewelry store and pawn shop within a few blocks of the courthouse. On a Web site advertising the sale of diamonds and other jewelry, he described himself as "the third generation owner of a small business."
A woman who answered the telephone Monday at the jewelry store said Mack was not there. A telephone number listed for Darren and Charla Mack was out of service.
The victim in the apartment building slaying had not been identified.
Weller, a Reno lawyer, was elected to the bench in 2004. He hosted a legal advice program on a Reno radio station from 1989 to 2002 and wrote a legal advice column in the Sunday Reno Gazette-Journal 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.
"It's speculation, but I would say it was the work of a disgruntled person," said Reno Justice of the Peace Harold Albright, a friend of Weller's. "Family court judges take people's children away and take property away. Those are such basic decisions that are very emotional."