WHEELING - Lt. Phil Redford's adrenaline was rushing Wednesday as he arrived at the scene of a reported shooting at the Federal Building.
The first to arrive on scene, Redford was prepared for the worst, as initial reports indicated the shooter had fired dozens of shots and showed no signs of stopping. Redford, however, wasn't prepared to identify the shooter - who was fatally wounded by another Wheeling police officer - as his former work partner, Thomas Piccard.
"I think it goes from the adrenaline rush to almost shock," Redford said of the moment he realized Piccard was the shooter. "It was shocking, as well as obviously emotional."
Photo by Tyler Reynard
A tarp covers the hole in Thomas Piccard’s mobile home from which federal agents removed a panel where Piccard reportedly scrawled a message prior to Wednesday’s shooting.
Piccard resigned from the department in 2000. The FBI confiscated his department personnel records as part of its investigation into the shooting, and any details surrounding his resignation have not been released.
However, several current and former officers who worked with and knew Piccard said he was respected within the department and the community, but some mentioned conflicts and "demons" in his personal life.
Redford described him as "professional" and "knowledgeable," and mentioned a commendation he received for apprehending a fugitive while off-duty.
Deputy Chief Martin Kimball, a 32-year veteran of the department, also worked closely with Piccard and said he enjoyed the experience.
"He was intelligent - a good police officer," he said. "I considered him a friend and I still do today."
Kimball said he last spoke to Piccard about a year ago, when he still lived in Wheeling. He did not recall Piccard mentioning any details about his personal life.
"Among the officers who knew him, we're pretty sad," Kimball said. "We'll miss him. Just about all of us here who knew him considered him a friend."
Kimball said there was no contention between Piccard and the department when he resigned, but that he had struggles in his personal life he could not resolve. He declined to elaborate.
"I've heard good reports about his law enforcement abilities," Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger said. "He was a respected member of the department for a time."
Although Magistrate Harry Radcliffe retired from the department before Piccard began his career there, he knew Piccard well.
"I thought he was a person who always battled some demons," Radcliffe said, "but I thought he was a good person and not violent. I'm absolutely stunned, and I'm very sorrowful for his family."