PHOENIX — A man accused of opening fire on a federal security officer outside the U.S. courthouse in Phoenix has a long history of mental illness but had never been violent, his ex-wife said Wednesday, a day after she helped turn him in to authorities.
“There’s no explanation for it. He’s sick,” Donna Gonzales told The Associated Press. “Hopefully, he’s getting the help he needs.”
A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court said James Lee Carr, 68, opened fire Tuesday because he said he felt the federal officer “was harassing him.” The officer was inspecting a UPS truck heading into the courthouse when someone in a car yelled, “Hey,” and then fired three shots, according to the complaint.
One round struck the officer, who returned fire, shooting roughly eight rounds as the driver fled in a silver Cadillac.
The officer was hit in a protective vest, city police and the FBI said.
Colleen Grayman, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Marshals Service in Phoenix, said the security officer was released from the hospital Tuesday and was at home recovering.
The officer’s name hasn’t been released, but Grayman said the officer is a retired Michigan state trooper who served more than 25 years.
Carr was not injured.
Gonzales said her ex-husband will most likely need a court-appointed attorney. She also dismissed any notion that he was making a statement following nationwide protests over police brutality and the weekend ambush of two Los Angeles County deputies. She blamed his mental illness.
Immediately after the shooting, Carr called his brother and said he was sitting in a park and “wanted to die because he shot the security guard,” according to the criminal complaint.
The brother called Carr’s son and Gonzales, who said they found him dressed in a suit and fedora sitting at the end of a slide with a revolver and rifle on a stool nearby. They got the weapons away from him and called 911.
“He followed my instructions, and that was the end of it,” said Gonzales, who didn’t know before that he had guns. “I had no fear. I know the man. He would never hurt me.”
Gonzales said she and Carr, who also have a daughter, last spoke two months ago. She didn’t know if he was taking any medication and said he’s acted erratically before but has never been violent.
His son said Carr told him that he “snapped and shot a security guard … because the security guard was harassing him,” according to the documents.
Carr has been charged with using a weapon to assault a federal officer and another weapons charge.
Following the courthouse shooting and the ambush of the two Los Angeles County deputies, Phoenix police will have officers patrol in pairs for greater safety.
The deputies in Compton, California, were sitting in their parked vehicle when a man walked up and fired. They were struck in the head and critically wounded but are expected to recover. The gunman hasn’t been captured, and a motive hasn’t been determined.
Federal courthouses have been flashpoints for recent violence.
In June, a federal security officer was shot and killed and his partner was wounded outside the federal courthouse in Oakland, California, as they guarded the building during protests over racial injustice and police brutality. An Air Force sergeant was charged with the shooting, and prosecutors say he had ties to the far-right, anti-government “boogaloo” movement and used the protest as cover for the crime and his escape.
During demonstrations in Portland, Oregon, protesters and federal officers clashed at the federal courthouse, where people set fires and tossed fireworks and rocks, while federal authorities unleashed tear gas and made arrests.
Terry Tang, The Associated Press.