Thomas C. Wales

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Thomas Wales
Thomas Wales.jpg
Born(1952-06-23)June 23, 1952
DiedOctober 12, 2001(2001-10-12) (aged 49)
Cause of deathMurder
EducationHarvard University (BA)
Hofstra University (JD)
OccupationU.S. Assistant Attorney

Thomas Crane Wales (June 23, 1952 – October 12, 2001) was an American federal prosecutor and gun control advocate who was the victim of an unsolved murder. In 2018, FBI investigators announced they strongly suspected the killing to have been carried out by a paid hit man.

Early life and education[edit]

Thomas Wales was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He was a graduate of Milton Academy, where he roomed with Joseph Patrick Kennedy II, the son of Robert F. Kennedy. Wales graduated from Harvard University and the Maurice A. Deane School of Law, where he graduated with distinction in 1979 and served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Hofstra Law Review.[1][2]


In 1995, a student at the high school that Wales' son attended brought a gun to school and shot and injured two classmates. Soon after, Wales became involved in Washington CeaseFire, most visibly as a vocal supporter of an unsuccessful 1997 state referendum that would have required gun owners to use trigger locks.[3] Wales later became president of CeaseFire. As a community volunteer, he was active in civic organizations and served as a trustee of the Federal Bar Association.[1][2]

Wales worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney at the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle, specializing in the investigation and prosecution of fraud in banking and business.[2][1]


On the evening of Thursday, October 11, 2001, at approximately 10:40 p.m., Wales was sitting at his computer in his home office in his basement. A gunman avoided the security lights in Wales' backyard and shot him in the neck, through a window, with a handgun. The killer left shell casings behind. The shots were heard by a neighbor who called 9-1-1.[4] It has been reported that a lone male suspect was seen fleeing the scene.

Wales died at a hospital the next day. He is believed to be the only U.S. federal prosecutor in history to have been victim of an assassination.[5]

Murder investigation[edit]

Sketch of possible witness.

Following the murder, the federal government offered a $1 million reward for information "leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible" for Wales' murder.[1] As of 2018, however, the case remained unsolved and no evidence has been found to establish a motive.[6][7][8] An airplane pilot living in Bellevue, a firearms enthusiast who Wales had prosecuted, was investigated and his home searched, but he was not charged. Agents believed he resented Wales' off-duty activism as a leading gun-control advocate.[9] The pilot later filed a malicious prosecution claim but the suit was dismissed.[10]

It has been suggested by the media that U.S Attorney John McKay was dismissed in part due to his request that resource allocation for the Wales investigation remain high. In June 2007, the FBI cut the staff assigned to the case down to two.[11]

In February 2018, an FBI official reported the investigation had found "evidence strongly suggesting" Wales was murdered by a contract killer and, for the first time, indicated that his death was likely a conspiracy involving a small group of people.[8] The United States Department of Justice, meanwhile, announced that then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would arrive in Seattle on Wednesday, February 21, 2018, to brief media on the progress of the sixteen-year-old investigation.[8]


In his memory, the Thomas C. Wales Foundation was established to support civic engagement, and Thomas C. Wales Park in Seattle was dedicated in 2011.[12][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Thomas Crane Wales". FBI. Retrieved February 20, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "Milton Graduate, Federal Prosecutor, Victim of Seattle Gun-Man". Milton Academy. Retrieved February 20, 2018.
  3. ^ Ayres, B. Drummond (1997-11-05). "THE 1997 ELECTIONS: REFERENDUMS; Oregon Stays With Its Law On Suicides". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-01-18.
  4. ^ Federal Prosecutor and Advocate of Gun Control Is Shot to Death Archived 2006-05-15 at the Wayback Machine October 2001
  5. ^ Fallows, James (October 11, 2014). "The Search for the Killer of Tom Wales Goes On". The Atlantic. Retrieved February 20, 2018.
  6. ^ Unsolved murder: Investigation into the shooting of Tom Wales moves slowly Archived 2008-08-30 at the Wayback Machine December 19, 2001
  7. ^ Assassination on Queen Anne: A year later, there are few leads in the slaying of assistant U.S. attorney and gun-control advocate Tom Wales Archived 2006-05-25 at the Wayback Machine September 18, 2002
  8. ^ a b c Carter, Mike (February 20, 2018). "Seattle federal prosecutor Thomas Wales was possibly killed by hired gunman, FBI official says". Seattle Times. Retrieved February 20, 2018.
  9. ^
  10. ^ FBI scours 2 houses owned by pilot in Wales case September 20, 2006
  11. ^ FBI cuts agents looking into murder of Tom Wales: At least two will remain on case of federal prosecutor June 3, 2006
  12. ^ Brodeur, Nicole (April 14, 2011). "New Thomas C. Wales Park eases pain of an old case". The Seattle Times.
  13. ^ "Thomas C. Wales Park". City of Seattle. Retrieved February 20, 2018.

External links[edit]