Police officially ID gunman, victims in courthouse shooting

Christine Belford and Laura Elizabeth Mulford
February 12, 2013 8:18:21 AM PST
Delaware State police have officially released the names of the gunman, and the two victims, of the deadly courthouse shooting in Wilmington on Monday.

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In a news release issued Tuesday morning, police identified the gunman as 68-year-old Thomas Matusiewicz of Edcouch, Texas.

Police sources say Matusiewicz's intended target was one of the victims, 39-year-old Christine Belford, the ex-wife of Matusiewicz's son, David Matusiewicz.

"This was not a random shooting," said Delaware State Police Sgt. Paul Shavack.

Belford and her friend, 47-year-old Laura Elizabeth Mulford of Newark, were both killed in the attack.

Police say the two Capitol police officers were shot in an exchange with Matusiewicz. However, the officers were both struck in their bulletproof vests and are in good condition.

Matusiewicz is also dead. However, police have not yet said how Matusiewicz died - whether he was killed by police gunfire or took his own life. Belford leaves behind four children. Mulford, a wife and mother of two, had come to the courthouse to support her friend.

Police confirmed that the shooting is related to an ongoing child custody dispute case that has been played out in Delaware courts for years.

David Matusiewicz was convicted in 2009 of kidnapping their three children and taking them on a 19-month odyssey across South America. He was later caught and sentenced to four years in prison.

Thomas and David Matusiewicz had been living in Texas and recently drove up to Delaware for court.

David Matusiewicz was taken into custody on Monday and is currently being held in Gander Hill Prison on violation of federal probation.

CHAOTIC SCENE AT THE COURTHOUSE

It was around 8:00 a.m. Monday when Matusiewicz walked into the public lobby of the New Castle County Court of Common Pleas, located at 500 N King Street.

According to police, Matusiewicz opened fire, killing the two women and injuring two Capitol police officers.

"I was walking in, and as soon as I walked in I just heard the shots," explained Jose Beltran, who was inside the courthouse when the shooting happened. "I heard two shots. And I just saw people just ducking down and going on the ground, on the floor. So I just turned around and ran out the building."

Police say Matusiewicz never breached the security perimeter beyond the metal detectors inside the courthouse.

Local and federal authorities responded to the scene. The courthouse was evacuated and officers conducted an extensive search of the building.

Two bomb squads responded to the scene while authorities searched the suspect's vehicle.

The courthouse remained closed Tuesday as the investigation continued.

WORKERS, JURORS WITNESSED THE HORROR

People who were inside the courthouse when the gunfire erupted described a terrifying scene.

It was the beginning of the work week and people were filing in - both workers and people who were reporting for jury duty. They were going through security when the shots rang out.

At first it wasn't clear whether the shots were coming from a lone gunman or if something else was going on. People were quickly moved to safe areas, and they remained there until an all-clear was given.

"I saw the guy come through the door and point-blank shoot two women," said juror Chick Chinski. "In fact, I didn't realize it was gunfire at first. Then when I saw a cop hit the floor, I hit the floor, and everyone else was going down at that point. There were maybe 50, 60 people in the lobby."

It had been a routine, rainy Monday morning. Then literally in a flash it became a terrifying ordeal inside the New Castle County Courthouse.

"We heard the gunfire," said courthouse employee Wanda Dean. "Some security staff came in and told us to stay in the office, stay down, there was a shooter outside. And one of our security staff was brought in. He had evidently been hit by debris from the broken glass."

"Yes, you do go through panic and terror. Like, okay this can't be happening in a courthouse," said juror Greg Simpson. "But yes, it's happening at the courthouse."

For hours the big courthouse was effectively locked down. Employees were released room by room and then told similar stories.

"There were a lot of people crying, people who actually saw the whole scene," said another witness. "They were just traumatized and shaken up."

"It was such a harrowing experience," said courthouse employee Beverly Bridgeforth. "I've never experienced anything like this before. I've been here ever since this courthouse has been here."

VICTIM'S NEIGHBORS STUNNED

Residents in Christine Belford's Middletown, Delaware neighborhood were stunned by the news that the mother of four was presumed dead in the courthouse shooting.

"Nobody ever thought something like this would happen," neighbor Tracy Campbell told Action News.

In a Facebook post shared only with Action News, someone posting as Christine's daughter confirmed her mother passed away Monday morning.

"She would go to the ends of the earth for her kids," said former co-worker Janet Jilek. "Her kids were her life. There was nobody who was more important to her than her kids."

Friends confirm Belford was in an ongoing custody battle with her ex-husband David Matusiewicz, who in 2009 was convicted of kidnapping their three children, and taking them on an 19-month motor home ride across South America.

"She was terrified of him," said another neighbor who only wanted to be identified as Lois. "When she moved into that house she had all the windows wired, she had cameras outside."

Investigators are not confirming if Belford's ex-husband or his family were involved in the shooting, but neighbors say she told them Matusiewicz was on his way to Delaware from Texas. He was living there after serving 48 months in federal prison.

"She said, 'But he does owe us money, and he doesn't want to pay it so he's coming to fight it,'" said Lois. "The courts didn't protect her like they needed to. She asked for help, and they let her down."

While we don't know exactly what happened inside that courthouse Monday, we do know there are four children left without a mother. Their custody now may be the subject of yet another court battle, as friends tell us Belford was not in touch with her immediate family.

GOOD NEWS FOR RELATIVES OF INJURED OFFICERS

When the two officers injured in the shooting were rushed to Christiana Hospital, Delaware State Police, still unsure if this was an isolated event or part of something bigger, displayed their own heavy weaponry outside.

Reporters were kept some 200 yards from the emergency room door, unable to see the officers' relatives arrive.

When loved ones did get there, they received some good news about the minor injuries the pair had sustained.

"I can tell you that they are non-life-threatening injuries," said Delaware State Police Sgt. Paul Savack. "I can tell you on behalf of the Chief of the Capitol Police that they are doing well. They were shot in their vests, and their protective vests took the bullets."

One of the wounded officers is 50-years-old and has been with the Capitol Police less than a year, but is a veteran of law enforcement. The other is 42-years-old, and a 7-year veteran of the Capitol Police.

Both were listed in good condition on arrival at Christiana Hospital. They were evaluated and then released from the hospital Monday afternoon.

ELECTED OFFICIALS RESPOND TO THE SHOOTING

Delaware Governor Jack Markell, currently on a trade mission to India, released the following statement regarding the shooting:

"First, I want to express my deepest condolences to the victims of this shooting. Second, I want to express my appreciation to all of those from the law enforcement community who have been working so hard today. A short while ago, I spoke with each of the Capitol Police officers who were shot. I thank God that they are both doing OK. I let them know how grateful we are for that and how much we appreciate their outstanding service to the citizens of our state. I have also spoken today with Secretary of Safety and Homeland Security Schiliro, State Police Superintendent McQueen, and Capitol Police Chief Jopp. I am grateful to them and their personnel for all they are doing. While this shooting is notable for the fact that it took place inside a state courthouse, there are some aspects of this incident that are, unfortunately, all too common. I am saddened that two more brave members of our law enforcement community have been injured in the line of duty. I am also saddened that this appears to be another example of a domestic situation that turned deadly. So while there is much focus on this incident today because of the circumstances, it should not detract from our focus on domestic violence or from our appreciation and apprehension for the thousands of men and women in law enforcement who take chances on our behalf every day."

Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) also released a statement in response to the shooting:

"Sadly, no community in our country is immune to violence or senseless tragedy. Today, it struck at home. It's impossible to comprehend acts like the shootings that took place today at the Courthouse in Wilmington, but they serve as somber reminders of the need for our leaders in both Dover and Washington to have a thoughtful but urgent conversation about how to address and reduce gun violence in our state and nation. My heart goes out to the friends and families of those killed and wounded today, and I send my deepest thanks to the brave men and women in law enforcement who were there to protect and serve civilians. In the days and weeks ahead, we need to find out what happened here so we can do all we can to prevent it from happening again. But today we grieve for those lost and hurting."


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