Remembering The Tragedy At Chicago Law Office Wood, Phillips, Katz, Clark & Mortimer

Sometimes people forget that lawyers are just trying to make a living the best way they can — and that they are just people too! A senseless tragedy in 2006 reminds us of the constant threats that most publicized attorneys must endure on a routine basis. The worst part? The murders may have been committed after a truck driver tried to request a truck toilet patent. 

Any death in Chicago that is wrong receives media attention. But the killing of two patent attorneys and the mailroom clerk was a media sensation due to the harrowing nature of the story. After truck driver Joe Jackson was told that a patent for his proposed truck toilet idea had already been patented by someone else, he came to believe that one of the attorneys at the Wood, Phillips, Katz, Clark & Mortimer law offices took his money to deliver his requested patent to someone else. 

When Jackson tried to uncover more information, his calls were reportedly ignored and he was turned away by the office’s personnel. But he wasn’t done. He came back with a gun, knife, and hammer, and pointed his pistol at a security guard upon reentry. He forced the guard to escort him to the 38th floor, where patent attorney Michael McKenna worked — a man who didn’t even work for the firm. Jackson chained the doors to the office on that floor.

Jackson then shot McKenna, another patent attorney named Allen Hoover (also managing partner for the firm), and mail sorter Paul Goodson. The three men succumbed to their injuries. A paralegal was also shot in the foot, but she survived. Swat officers managed to shoot Jackson from outside the building after the man took hostages. 

Reverend C.L. Sparks had originally urged Jackson to seek legal counsel in order to protect his idea, advice which the man took faithfully. But after several years dealing with McKenna — and $25,000, part of which was provided for a retainer to protect the patent — McKenna told Jackson the idea had already been taken. It isn’t quite clear how or why Jackson decided that McKenna had taken advantage of him, nor is it clear if there was any truth in the allegations. 

Jackson’s son Darrin said that he believes his dad “just snapped.” He added, “I believe he was just frustrated.”

His niece Brenda said that Jackson believed his invention would change his life for the better: “He went to them, he trusted them. He said, ‘This is gonna pay off big.’”

According to authorities, Jackson didn’t even know who his victim, McKenna, actually was. The paralegal who was shot had been ordered to point him out so he could have his vengeance.

Firm managing partner John S. Mortimer said that the attack was “brutal and senseless,” and allowed staff to stay home the following Monday or gather to memorialize the dead. They were also provided with grief counseling.

 

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