Editorial: A sad reminder of dangers in our courts
The case of Reno Judge Chuck Weller, shot Monday while in his office at the Reno courthouse, shows the potential danger some public servants face daily in the halls of justice. It should be a message to those who work in our courts that security remains a paramount priority.
Weller, shot in the chest, is reportedly in good spirits as of press time, having escaped death by an inch or two (the wound was between his heart and shoulder), but the man who is suspected of the crime remained at large. The alleged shooter, Darren Mack, is also suspected of the murder of his estranged wife with whom he was contesting a divorce in Weller’s courtroom. The couple had three children.
Family court can be a volatile place. It attracts cases that involve abusive relationships, custody battles and everything in between. Elected judges, many of whom are private practice attorneys who step into the political world to serve the public good, try to resolve disputes and dispense justice. And along the way, many of them make enemies.
This fact is not lost on authorities at the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, which last year developed a disaster plan to deal with violent subjects. The courthouse is heavily patrolled by eight sheriff’s deputies. On the Nevada side, at the Tahoe Township building, judges and other court staff are protected by video surveillance, bulletproof glass, alarms and metal detectors. As it turns out, bulletproof glass probably would have protected Weller as the sniper’s crosshairs were trained on him, illustrating that no security measure is too minor when it comes to the jeopardy of human life.
It is cruel fate that Weller should suffer an assault of this magnitude on the job. It’s important work that judges do, but dangerous work nonetheless – another reminder that vigilance is sometimes the only thing that prevents tragedy.