Seattle: A knife-wielding attacker stabbed a judge and shot a sheriff`s deputy with her own gun in a county courthouse in Washington state on Friday, prompting a lockdown of schools and government buildings as police and SWAT teams searched for the attacker.
The gunman, described as relatively well dressed and carrying a briefcase, confronted the deputy inside the main entrance of the Grays Harbor County Courthouse in Montesano, County Undersheriff Rick Scott told a news conference.
The suspect stabbed the deputy, then grabbed her gun and shot her, Scott said.
The judge, who saw the commotion from the third floor of the courthouse and ran down to intervene, was stabbed in the neck and torso during the altercation, Scott said.
Both Superior Court Judge Dave Edwards and Deputy Polly Davin were taken to Grays Harbor Community Hospital in nearby Aberdeen, where they were listed in satisfactory condition, spokesman David Quigg said.
Edwards, a former prosecuting attorney appointed to the bench in 2007, was part of a lawsuit filed by the Superior Court against the county in December that alleged poor courthouse security due to inadequate funding.
The lawsuit said that over the past two years, attorneys were physically assaulted at court, a defendant charged at a judge and a man came to the courthouse armed with a knife.
"Anyone can enter the courthouse carrying weapons," the lawsuit said of the courthouse.
Scott said the courthouse lacks metal detectors.
"We just had a discussion about courthouse security less than a week ago," Scott said. "The need for that is certainly illustrated by what happened here today."
Suspect remains at large
Authorities searched a wide area for the suspect, identified as Michael Thomas, but had not arrested him as of late afternoon.
Another man also identified as Michael Thomas was taken into custody on an unrelated warrant at mid-afternoon in the community of Tumwater, some 40 miles away, a spokeswoman for the Tumwater Police Department said.
Authorities later said he was not the gunman and only shared the same name as the suspect.
"The man in custody is not the alleged shooter," Scott said.
The gunman was described as being in his early 20s and possibly armed with a handgun and a knife. Scott said it was not clear what business he had at the courthouse.
A Grays Harbor County Sheriff`s spokesman said that government buildings in Montesano, a community of about 4,000 people, had been temporarily placed on lockdown following the incident. A Montesano School District spokeswoman said schools had also been placed on lockdown.
Josh Bachtell, the owner of Savory Faire bakery in Montesano, said he had locked the doors of his business after the husband of one of his employees said he had seen a gunman running from the courthouse.
"Right after it happened, he came in and told us there was an armed gunman on the loose, so we`ve locked the doors," Bachtell said. "It looks like there`s still a lot of police activity out there."
The violence came two days after a gunman fired a flurry of shots into the air and then traded gunfire with police outside a courthouse in Oklahoma on Wednesday, wounding a sheriff`s deputy and a bystander, authorities said. Officers had no explanation for why that gunman began shooting skyward in an outdoor Tulsa plaza in the middle of the afternoon, Tulsa Police spokesman Leland Ashley said.