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Originally published June 20, 2005 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 21, 2005 at 7:38 AM

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Man fatally shot at federal courthouse in Seattle

A man who walked into the federal courthouse in downtown Seattle today carrying a hand grenade was shot and killed, police said.

Seattle Times staff reporter

A man who walked into the federal courthouse in downtown Seattle today carrying a hand grenade was shot and killed, police said.

Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said the man walked into the building armed with a hand grenade. After a 20-minute standoff, Seattle police officers fired several rounds.

The man was shot twice, once in the chin with an M-16 and once in the chest with a shotgun. He collapsed still clutching the grenade, that was later determined to be inactive.

The Seattle Police Department's bomb squad examined the man's backpack before medics were allowed in to treat him.

He was then pronounced dead at the scene, said police spokesman Rich Pruitt.

Police said he walked into the building shortly before noon. The man, dressed in camouflage gear, also wore a backpack attached to his chest, but the chief said it did not appear the backpack held any explosives.

The man did not go through any security checkpoint and was just inside the building lobby.

He was shot by Seattle police. His identity was not immediately known. Two courthouse employees who saw the man said he appeared to be white with blond hair.

Employees were evacuated from the building under escort.

A federal employee said two loud shots were heard, then the man was seen crumpled on the lobby floor. At 12:30 p.m., he was still lying there with what appeared to be a yellow backpack. No one was near the man.

During the stand-off, the man stood at the west side of the lobby, while police with rifles were at a distance near the building's elevators.

This evening the FBI confirmed it was conducting a search related to the shooting at a studio apartment in Seattle's Belltown neighborhood. However, the FBI would not say whether the apartment belonged to the man shot at the courthouse.

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Court Administrator Bruce Rifkin said that, following protocol, the building was evacuated from the ground floor up to floor five or six. He was unaware of any controversial hearings or trials scheduled for today.

The $171 million federal courthouse at Seventh Avenue and Stewart Street opened in August.

The building houses U.S. Marshals Service, judges, support staff and court clerks, as well as the U.S. Attorney's Office, bankruptcy courts, and probation and pretrial services.

The courthouse was hailed as a huge improvement over the old building, located on Fifth Avenue downtown. In the old building, for example, judges, defendants and jurors walked many of the same hallways and used the same elevators. The trial of terrorist Ahmed Ressam was moved to a newer federal courthouse in Los Angeles, in part because of security concerns.

The building, which began construction after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing but before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was designed to give the feel of open public access while still providing tight security.

"It isn't easy to make a building feel welcoming and at the same time have security," Court Administrator Rifkin said last summer, on a tour of the new building.

The planners handled it this way:

Visitors may walk into the lobby area a short distance without going through security screening. "The public can come in and enjoy it without having to go through the drill," Judge Carolyn Dimmick said on the same tour.

But in order to get to the courtrooms, the clerk's office, or anywhere else in the building, a visitor must go through a walk-through metal detector, which takes up the right side of the lobby. The court security officers who run the metal detectors are armed. Many of them are retired law-enforcement officers, Rifkin said.

The rest of the large entranceway features what court workers refer to as a moat — a wide, shallow reflecting pool that essentially blocks access to the main part of the building and directs visitors towards the metal detectors. There is an infrared security curtain around the moat, which presumably would set off an alarm if it was breached. It is unclear what might physically prevent a determined intruder from running through the water other than the quick action of the security guards.

In addition, the building's floor-to-ceiling windows have special glass that protects against bombs. The building is set back from the street, artistically, with a large plaza on one side, a block-long staircase on another, and concrete barriers. These features help prevent someone from driving up to the building with a truck bomb. Parking is not allowed along the adjacent streets.

In the fall of 2001, after the anthrax scare, building designers also added a special ventilation system for the mailroom.

Seattle Times staff reporters Maureen O'Hagan, Mike Carter and Steve Miletich contributed to this report.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com

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