VAN BUREN, Ark. — A gunman opened fire at an Arkansas courthouse Tuesday, wounding the secretary of the judge he went to see and frightening court workers who scrambled for cover. He died hours later after a struggle with authorities.
The coroner in Crawford County, near the Oklahoma border, told the Southwest Times Record the suspect died about 5:45 p.m., two hours after gunshots rang out at the courthouse in Van Buren.
Authorities have not yet identified the suspect.
Van Buren Police Lt. Brent Grill said the man went to the courthouse to speak to Arkansas Circuit Judge Gary Cottrell. When Cottrell's receptionist told the suspect that the judge wasn't there, the suspect pulled out a weapon, Grill said.
The judge's secretary tried to flee, but was shot in the leg, Grill said. She was taken to an area hospital.
The suspect was armed with two handguns and an assault rifle, Grill said. Witnesses said dozens of gunshots could be heard blocks away.
Elaine Stanfield, the administrative assistant to Crawford County Judge John Hall, told the Times Record that she first heard shots from her first-floor office at about 3:30 p.m.
"I heard girls screaming upstairs," Stanfield said. "This all started upstairs."
The shots continued. One witness told KHOG-TV that she could hear the shooter reload. Stanfield said she spotted the shooter, a heavyset, middle-aged man wearing a long coat, as he left the courthouse.
Outside, the man exchanged gunfire with local police and sheriff's deputies, Grill told the Times Record.
"I believe as many rounds as (the suspect) was popping off, he was trying to shoot anything and everything," Grill said.
Stanfield, who had called 911, said she heard a dispatcher say, "Our guys are being fired at." Then, the shooting stopped, she said.
Hollenbeck said security had been increased at courthouses in Fort Smith and Greenwood. It wasn't clear yet whether Tuesday's shooter had help or was working with anyone else, he said.
The Crawford County courthouse will be closed Wednesday.
"We're probably looking at getting security guards," Hall told the Times Record. "We have six entrances at the courthouse. Yes, there is going to be a change in security."
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