SEATTLE, WA — At 10:40 P.M. on October 11, 2001, bullets flew through the basement window of a home belonging to Seattle’s Assistant United States Attorney, Thomas Crane Wales, 49.
The federal prosecutor with 18 years on the job and two children was working at his desk when the shots hit him in the neck.
The gunman, who had fired a Makarov semi-automatic 9mm handgun from the backyard, vanished. He left shell casings behind. A neighbor who heard the blasts called 911. He told police he saw saw male figure bolt away and speed off in a car that had been parked up the block.
The neighbor also said the shooter’s escape came off as something well-planned, and that, “He took off like a bat out of hell.”
Responders found Wales alive but unresponsive, and rushed him to a nearby hospital. He died during surgery.Sixteen years later, authorities still have no idea who killed Tom Wales or even why.
The FBI says the case is “far from cold,” though, and a $1 million reward for information leading to a conviction still stands. In fact, the feds are directly asking you, the public, for any help you might possibly provide.
After a brief stint at a private firm, Tom Wales went into public service in 1983. He racked up an impressive array of productive wins and felt a new purpose following a 1995 shooting at his son’s school.
From then on, Wales actively pursued prosecutions against firearms violence and took up gun control as his cause. When addressing a Seattle community college, he told the students:
“Be engaged. Be involved in what goes on around you. Be present in your own life. Find something you believe in passionately and get into it. Get outraged. Take a stand. For me, among other things, it’s gun control.”
In 1997, Wales proposed a statewide law requiring gun owners to utilize trigger locks. The referendum lost when put to a public vote, but Wales became a figure often and loudly criticized by the pro-gun lobby — until a gun silenced him in 2001.Related: Secrets And Loans — The Unsolved Murder Of Bank Worker Connie Boelter
According to the National Association of Former United States Attorneys website:
“Wales’s murder is believed to have been in retaliation for his work as an Assistant US Attorney and was perpetrated or arranged by the target of a criminal investigation.”
While any actual motive remains unknown, but as an investigator noted shortly after the murder, “It has the hallmarks of a hit.”
Bearing that in mind, in December 2011, authorities picked up an airline pilot who Wales had prosecuted in high-profile fraud case. The pilot, who had an outspoken passion for firearms, denied all involvement and was never charged. Since then, the most the feds have been able to come up with is a sketch of a “possible witness.”
Thomas C. Wales Park in Seattle is dedicated to the murdered attorney, as is a charitable foundation and an annual 5K run.
Two FBI agents remain on the case — nicknamed “SEPROM,” short for Seattle Prosecutor Murder — in full-time pursuit of the killer. As noted, $1 million awaits anyone who can help them finally solve this mystery.
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Main image: Thomas Wells / FBI poster [FBI]