By KRISTIN M. HALL and PETE YOST
Associated Press Writers
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - The son of a man killed when he opened fire at a Las Vegas courthouse has been arrested in Tennessee after making numerous death threats, the U.S. Marshals Service said Thursday.
Richard Earl Nelson, a 37-year-old ex-convict, was ordered held by U.S. Magistrate Diane K. Vescovo. Nelson was taken into custody late Wednesday because of the alleged threats and a probation violation in another case, said Jeff Carter, chief spokesman for the Marshals Service.
Carter said Nelson is the son of Johnny Lee Wicks, the 66-year-old ex-convict killed in a gun battle in the federal building in downtown Las Vegas earlier this month.
Nelson had been free while awaiting trial on a charge of a federal weapons violation, the Marshals Service said in a release. Authorities gave no indication Thursday what might have prompted threats they say Nelson made to a pretrial services officer handling that case.
According to a petition filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Memphis, a pretrial services officer said Nelson "displayed anger in contacts with his supervising officer by phone, in person and by voice message. In telephone contact with his officer on Jan. 27, (Nelson) advised that if he wanted to go out and kill someone right now, that he could and that electronic monitoring could not stop him.
"During this contact, the defendant further stated that he was going to make his attitude worse and that 'maybe that would get people's attention.'"
Carter said an initial report from the Marshals Service that Nelson had threatened to blow up the Memphis federal building was incorrect because of an internal miscommunication.
Nelson's aunt, Elaine Osborne, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that she doubted her nephew was angry about his father's death. She said most of the family had lost contact with Wicks and thought he had died years ago.
Osborne also said Nelson had been doing well since he finished a state prison sentence four years ago, had been working two jobs - one as a pizza delivery driver - and had his own place.
She said she couldn't imagine him threatening anyone.
"He's quiet," she said. "I mean, he don't mess with no one."
Nelson, who has legally changed his name to "Sir Richard," was sentenced to 18 years for attempted first-degree murder in 1992. That came after a 1991 sentence of two years for attempted aggravated assault, according to records.
While behind bars in about six different prisons in Tennessee, Nelson had 40 disciplinary issues since 1993, including assault, possession of a deadly weapon, assault of staff and possession of gang material, records show.
At a five-minute hearing Thursday, Nelson wore a black hooded sweat shirt and said "yes ma'am," when asked if he was aware of the charges against him. His attorney wasn't present and did not return calls from the AP.
Prosecutors declined to comment on the case.
In the Las Vegas shootout, Wicks mortally wounded a courthouse security guard and wounded a deputy U.S. marshal.
Wicks, originally from Memphis, had served prison time for killing his brother in Tennessee and jail time for domestic violence in California.
On Jan. 4, Wicks returned to the courthouse where his lawsuit over his Social Security benefits had been dismissed in September. He had claimed racial discrimination after his Social Security benefits were cut.
Authorities said Wicks set fire to his Las Vegas apartment before walking three miles to the federal building, pulling a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun from beneath his black trench coat and opening fire.
Associated Press writer Travis Loller contributed to this story from Nashville and Pete Yost from Washington.