RENO -- A family court judge was shot and wounded as he stood near a third-floor courthouse window yesterday, and police sealed off the area and searched nearby parking garages for a sniper.
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, 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.
Police said they had no suspects, but family court officials said the sniper could be someone unhappy with a ruling in a child custody case.
``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," said Darin Conforti, court administrator of Reno Justice Court.
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, who is 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.
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 just terrifying. It's very scary. It's speculation, but I would say it was the work of a disgruntled person," said Harold Albright, Justice of the Peace in Reno and 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."
Albright added: ``It's still very shocking. He's a nice guy and real hardworking. I can't imagine he would be gruff or disparaging to anyone in his courtroom. He's not a brusque, grumpy person."