On January 10, 1984, Thomas Provenzano walked into the Orange County Courthouse with shotgun in hand. The events that followed changed lives and the Ninth Circuit forever.

Open Ninth Podcast - Episode 91

In the first installment of this 3-part series, Chief Judge Frederick J. Lauten sat down with former Chief Judge Emerson Thompson, Jr. to discuss the backdrop leading up to the tragic 1984 courthouse shooting.  Today, Judge Thompson, Circuit Judge Mark S. Blechman, and other eye witnesses give chilling accounts of the events that unfolded on that dreadful January 10th day.

In 1984, Mark Blechman was a young, state attorney assigned to the Orange County Courthouse.  The Orange County Courthouse was a close-knit community and home to Judges and court staff who shared more than a common workplace.  As Judge Blechman details, the horrific shooting sent shockwaves through the community and forever changed courthouse life.

Judge Blechman gives a detailed account of how he and his co-workers stayed safe during the shooting by huddling under the attorneys’ tables in the courtroom. He mentions how a bullet from the shooter’s gun ricocheted through a window and into the courtroom. The fear he felt on that day was like nothing he’d ever experienced before.

Tune into this podcast to hear survivors tell their stories and honor the memory of the victims. As Judge Blechman describes, Bailiff William "Arnie” Wilkerson, who was fatally shot by Provenzano, was a caring, sweet human being who gave his life protecting others.  Bailiff Harry Dalton and Corrections Officer Mark Parker died years later from injuries related to the shooting.  Their lives were celebrated during the 34th Remembrance Ceremony on January 10, 2018.  Though gone, their heroism and selfless sacrifice will be remembered forever.

Orange County Courthouse Shootings
January 10, 1984


In this episode

Frederick J. Lauten

Former Chief Judge and Moderator

Emerson R. Thompson, Jr.

Senior Judge

Judge Thompson served as a County, Circuit and Appellate Judge for 33 years, including terms as Chief Judge for the Ninth Circuit and the Fifth DCA.

Mark S. Blechman

Circuit Court Judge

Judge Blechman has served as a Circuit Judge since 2013. He currently serves in the Criminal Division in Orange County.