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April 24, 2014

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Shooting ends gunman’s two-year battle over benefits

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Sam Morris

Law enforcement evidence cones sit on the steps of the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse Monday, January 4, 2010 after a shooting that left a court security officer dead and another seriously wounded.

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Johnny Lee Wicks

Neighbors of Gunman React

Neighbors of Johnny Lee Wicks, 66, are shocked after the lone gunman opened fire in the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse Monday morning. Wicks lived at the Sunrise Senior Village complex at 571 N. 30th St., where a fire broke out about three hours before the shooting.

Federal Courthouse Shooting

A lone gunman walked into the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse in downtown Las Vegas and opened fire, killing a security officer.

Courthouse Shooting

Law enforcement officers fill the streets outside the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse Monday, January 4, 2010 after a shooting that left a court security officer dead and another seriously wounded. Launch slideshow »

Johnny Lee Wicks, identified as the man who opened fire at the federal courthouse Monday morning in downtown Las Vegas, has been at odds with the federal government over Social Security benefits for about two years.

That’s according to documents in a federal lawsuit he filed in Las Vegas against the Social Security Administration on March 7, 2008.

Wicks moved from California to Nevada in January 2008 and called the Social Security Administration’s Nevada office soon thereafter to change his address, according to an August 2009 report in the case by U.S. Magistrate Judge George Foley Jr.

Wicks likely was surprised and upset to learn that his Social Security benefits would be reduced due to the move because he would be losing a "California State Supplement’’ of $317 a month to his federal Social Security benefits.

Before moving to Las Vegas from San Bernardino, Wicks was receiving $974 monthly in Social Security and Supplemental Security Income payments; records in his lawsuit show.

He was receiving $886 monthly in Nevada before losing the $317 per month, records in his lawsuit show.

Foley’s report shows Wicks had in-person meetings with a Social Security case manager at the agency office at 1250 S. Buffalo Drive as well as telephone and U.S. mail contact with the agency before filing his suit.

"Plaintiff met with (the case manager), who was allegedly disrespectful and told the plaintiff to move back to California,’’ Foley’s report says.

Things may have gotten worse in February 2008 when Wicks received a notice from the Nevada Social Security office that he had been overpaid $317 and asked him to repay the money and saying that, otherwise, it would withhold $63.70 per month beginning in May 2008.

The agency later found Wicks did not need to repay the overpaid $317, records show.

Nevertheless, Wicks filed his lawsuit alleging that in cutting his benefits, his civil rights were violated by the agency because of his race (black).

"Lots of state workers and agencies have taken part in this scam, mainly for old blacks who are not well educated,’’ Wicks charged in the lawsuit, in which he had no attorney and represented himself.

Foley’s report recommended Wicks’ lawsuit be dismissed because Wicks had failed to exhaust the administrative appeals process.

U.S. District Judge Philip Pro on Sept. 9 dismissed the case, saying in a ruling he had reviewed and affirmed the recommendation of Foley.

As the lawsuit proceeded, it appeared Wicks suffered further setbacks as the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an appeal of a ruling and Wicks apparently failed to show up for an Aug. 17, 2009, hearing.

"Plaintiff is not present. The court waited an additional 10 minutes before continuing these proceedings to allow the plaintiff time to appear,’’ court minutes read. "As the plaintiff is not present, the court cannot hear any additional arguments on his behalf regarding the defendant’s motion to dismiss.’’

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