People inside the building ducked under desks as the shots struck the building and shattered windows.
Carla Webb Daniels told media outlets she was in her attorney’s office nearby when she heard loud gunshots. She saw the gunman fire from a bank parking lot across the street.
“I was so nervous, I couldn’t believe it,” Daniels said. “People were scared and were banging on the doors asking to be let in.”
The three-story gray federal building remained cordoned off Wednesday night, surrounded by a heavy police presence in the city along the Ohio River in West Virginia’s northern panhandle about 60 miles southwest of Pittsburgh.
Most people were going about their evenings, eating at local restaurants in the small city of about 28,000 with an older downtown with stone buildings, banks and coffee shops
David Wohlfeil, the owner of the Metropolitan City Grill near the courthouse, said he ran outside after he heard the first round of shots. He heard two more volleys of gunfire then ran back inside.
“I told everyone to get in the basement and then called 911,” he said, adding that police arrived while he was on the phone.
Wheeling has been hit by layoffs in the steel industry and its population dropped by 9.3 percent from 2000 to 2010 to about 28,500 people.
McKenzie said the shooting underscores the fact that even small cities like Wheeling are “not immune to national problems.”
“Things like this aren’t just happening in large cities, in this country we need to do a better job on mental health,” he said.