Bailiffs shot and killed a man who opened fire in the lobby of a downtown courthouse Wednesday afternoon, sheriff's officials said.
One of the two bailiffs who fired at the unidentified man suffered a non-life-threatening shoulder wound, Pinellas County Sheriff's Sgt. Jim Bordner said. No one else was hurt, despite court staffers and others in the lobby at the time.
The gunman wearing a backpack entered the courthouse shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday and approached a security checkpoint. A deputy ordered him to remove the backpack and place it on a conveyor belt, but the man instead threw it on the ground and opened fire with a semiautomatic handgun, Bordner said.
The deputies returned fire, wounding the man. He later died at a St. Petersburg hospital.
'Run for your life'
Cassandra Grady, 40, and her 15-year-old daughter had gone to the courthouse for a hearing and saw the gunman before the shooting. Grady told the St. Petersburg Times the man asked her where he could file a petition, and that she saw a gun handle in his backpack.
"I told my daughter, 'Run for your life.' Then I started running. I was trying to run to warn them. He started shooting. I heard a round of shots: pop-pop-pop, pop-pop-pop."
Grady was shaken but grateful to be alive. "I just want to say, 'Thank you, God.' It could have been us."
Courthouse shuts down
Pinellas County Clerk of Court Ken Burke said one of his office's windows was shattered by a bullet. Clerk's staff escaped injury, but he said a worker had just emerged from the elevator when the gunshots erupted.
The courthouse closed after the shooting and was expected to resume to normal business on Thursday. Deputies were preparing to search the man's backpack about three hours after the shooting.
Authorities did not release additional information about the man or any motive Wednesday afternoon.
"It's unfortunate that a life was lost, but the public, employees, judges and others in the courthouse were properly protected," said Judge Robert Morris, the chief judge of Florida's Sixth Judicial Circuit.