Former police officer Thomas Piccard almost had to have known he was embarking on a suicide mission when he began shooting at the Federal Building in Wheeling on Wednesday. Within minutes of opening fire, he was dead.
His motivation may never be understood fully. One clue was found scrawled on the exterior of his mobile home in Bridgeport. Written in Latin, it translated roughly to "Abandon hope, all ye who enter this place."
Three federal security guards were injured by shards of glass broken by Piccard's bullets. They were treated at a hospital and released.
It appears Piccard could have caused even more suffering, had he chosen to do so. In at least one situation, he seems to have directed a motorist away from the danger zone.
Still, others may have perished or been badly wounded but for the quick, decisive action taken by Wheeling police and the Federal Building security staff. One witness said Piccard was advancing toward the building when the police officer and security guard confronted, then killed, him.
Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger put the tragedy in perspective. "A life was lost in downtown Wheeling today," he told our reporter, "and despite the circumstances, our condolences go out to the family members there."
Again, however, more lives might have been lost had federal security officers and Wheeling police not put their own lives on the line to stop Piccard.
Law enforcement personnel "serve and protect," it is said. On Wednesday, they did precisely that. Thank heaven for them.