Discuss as:

Cops: Delaware courthouse shooter killed ex-daughter-in-law over custody dispute

Joseph Kaczmarek / AP

A law enforcement official makes his way around the perimeter outside the New Castle County Courthouse in Wilmington, Del., on Monday.

Delaware authorities have identified the suspected gunman and the victims of a shooting at a courthouse on Monday that left three people dead and two injured.


Police say 68-year-old Thomas Matusiewicz walked into the lobby of the New Castle County Courthouse in Wilmington, Del., at around 8 a.m. ET and shot and killed his former daughter-in-law Christine Belford, 39, and her friend, Laura Mulford, 47.

"He walked right up to the first victim and shot her point-blank right in the chest," Bill Heriot, a plaintiff in a court case told NBCPhiladelphia.com. "He then turned around and shot a second woman who was approximately 10 feet away."


Matusiewicz also shot and injured two Capitol Police officers, both wearing bulletproof vests, in the chest, identified as Steven Rinehart and Michael Manley, Delaware State Police Sgt. Paul Shavak said.

Witnesses said during a heated exchange of gunfire, the two officers shot and killed Matusiewicz as he was reloading his weapon, NBCPhiladelphia.com reported.

The injured officers were taken to nearby Christiana Hospital, treated and released. 

Belford was due in court for a child support hearing with her estranged husband David Matusiewicz, 45, the gunman's son, Shavak said.

David Matusiewicz was released from federal prison in Texas last year after being convicted in Delaware federal court of bank fraud and kidnapping the couple's daughters, ages 11, 10 and 7.

Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden said the shooting was not a random act of violence, but based on their preliminary investigation, "a result of a custody dispute that lasted in our court system for several years."

Defense attorney Brian Chapman told NBCPhiladelphia.com that the building’s security is normally very tight.

"There are at least four or five rows of metal detectors when you go in, you put your belongings through, then you have to walk through the metal detectors,” Chapman said. “Then there are usually eight to 10 police with wands checking everyone and after that you still have to walk by a desk where capitol police sit."

Upon reports of the incident, dozens of police cars, ambulances and fire trucks flooded the scene, and the streets were cordoned off for several blocks, DelawareOnline.com reported.

The courthouse was placed on lockdown while investigators and search teams canvassed and later evacuated the 12-story building.

Five elementary schools and one high school in the area were on also lockdown Monday morning.

In a statement, Delaware Governor Jack Markell, while not on the scene, said, "Our thoughts and prayers right now are with the victims of this senseless violence and the Capitol police officers who put their lives on the line to protect the courts and public every day."

The New Castle County courthouse was closed on Tuesday.