Investigators are trying to identify who shot Thomas Wales in Seattle on Oct. 11, 2001. If he was killed because of his work, he would be the first federal prosecutor in the nation’s history to be slain in the line of duty.
To mark the fifth and 10th anniversaries of the fatal 2001 shooting of Seattle federal prosecutor Thomas Wales, the FBI held media events to ask for the public’s help in solving the case.
For the 15th anniversary on Oct. 11, the FBI plans no media event.
Does that mean the investigation is at a dead end?
Or could it suggest that after 15 years of massive frustration, the FBI is finally closing in on an arrest and doesn’t see a need to say anything?
The FBI will only say the investigation remains active.
“It’s far from a cold case,” said Russ Fox, the FBI supervisory agent in Seattle overseeing the investigation.
Wales, 49, who worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle, was shot several times in his Queen Anne home about 10:40 p.m. on Oct. 11, 2001, as he sat at a basement computer.
“He took off like a bat out of hell” in the car, the neighbor told The Associated Press.
Since early in the case, the FBI focused its investigation on an airline pilot whom Wales had prosecuted.
No charge has been brought, despite a reward of up to $1 million, several searches of homes where the pilot lived in the Bellevue area and Snohomish, a nationwide effort to trace a unique gun barrel used to kill Wales, and an exploration into every corner of the pilot’s life.
The pilot, through an attorney, has denied he killed Wales. The Seattle Times is not naming him because he hasn’t been charged. He appears to have purchased a house in Delaware and did not respond to messages seeking an interview.
If Wales was killed because of his work, he would be the first federal prosecutor in the nation’s history to be slain in the line of duty.
“It is seen, and I believe actually is, an attack on the justice system, an attack on the Constitution by people who don’t believe in the rule of law,” said former U.S. Attorney John McKay, a Seattle lawyer who began overseeing the office shortly after Wales was shot, referring to someone killed for their judicial or prosecutorial role.
“There’s enormous frustration by those of us who care about justice that Tom Wales’ killer has not been found,” McKay added.
Wales had worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for 18 years, primarily handling white-collar cases as an assistant U.S. attorney. He also was a civic activist and gun-safety advocate.
“He was filled with energy and life,” said Eric Redman, his onetime brother-in-law and close friend, who was the only family member in Seattle when the divorced Wales was shot and went to the hospital.
Redman recalled driving to Harborview Medical Center thinking he was overdramatizing what awaited and telling himself to calm down, Tom would be sitting in bed with his arm in a sling, joking.
“But of course that wasn’t it,” Redman said.
While the shooting attracted attention outside Seattle, it was overshadowed by the terrorist attacks a month earlier on Sept. 11.
Ten years ago, just before the fifth anniversary, Amy Wales spoke of the family’s willingness to wait for the killer to be caught.
“I remain patient that the investigation will be resolved in a way that would make my father proud,” she said, explaining he would want hard evidence.
“My father was a federal prosecutor. He believed in justice and due process. And I believe in justice and due process. I am my father’s daughter.”
The investigation has continued, even as it has attracted less public attention. Some agents who worked on the case are now retired.
Remarkably, there are two investigators on the task force — an FBI agent and a Seattle police detective — who have devoted virtually 15 years to solving the killing.
The Department of Justice is offering a reward of up to $1 million for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the slaying of Thomas Wales.
Phone: 1-800-CALL FBI
Mail: FBI — Thomas Wales, 1110 Third Ave., Seattle, WA 98101.
A website with information on the case can be found at www.fbi.gov/wales
“This has been their life, their day-to-day dedication,” said Charlie Mandigo, who was special agent in charge of the Seattle FBI office at the time of Wales’ killing and is now retired.
“This requires a particular dedication, and that dedication basically comes from ‘Hey what is the truth? Who did this? Somebody needs to be brought to justice,’?” Mandigo said.
Mandigo likened the killing to the Sept. 11 attack on democracy.
“And (the) killing of Tom Wales is one of those things we must not forget,” he said.