Tennessee man who fired shots on federal building dies after “medical episode” in jail

By: - August 26, 2022 9:55 am
John J. Duncan Federal Building in Knoxville (Photo: Joseph Zanola for Google Earth)

John J. Duncan Federal Building in Knoxville (Photo: Joseph Zanola for Google Earth)

A Tennessee man jailed pending trial on charges he fired on a federal building in Knoxville as part of his “war” on government agencies has died, court records show.

Assistant Federal Defender Sarah Olesiuk has filed notice in U.S. District Court in Knoxville that Mark Thomas Reno died Aug. 15 at the Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center in Danville, Ky. Reno’s cause of death is not disclosed in the notice.

Reno, 63, of Jefferson City was arrested last month on a federal vandalism charge for allegedly firing several rounds from a .22-caliber rifle at the John J. Duncan Federal Office Building in downtown Knoxville on July 3.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jill McCook ordered Reno jailed until trial, deeming him a threat to public safety. He was being held in the Laurel County Correctional Center in London, Ky., although it’s not clear why the U.S. Marshals Service, tasked with placing federal detainees in local jails, chose to house him outside Tennessee.

According to a motion filed by Olesiuk earlier this month, Reno “suffered a medical episode” at the Kentucky jail on Aug. 9. He was initially transported to a local hospital in London and then transferred to Ephraim McDowell “due to needing a higher level of care,” Olesiuk wrote.

After receiving an unspecified treatment, Reno was taken back to jail on Aug. 11, Olesiuk wrote. Three days later, Reno was airlifted to Ephraim McDowell.

“Hospital staff at Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center has reported to the medical staff at the Laurel County Correctional Center that Mr. Reno has a less than 50 percent chance of survival,” Olesiuk wrote.

Reno died less than 24 hours after he was admitted to the hospital, according to Olesiuk’s notice.

Federal building windows shattered

In the months before the shooting at the Knoxville federal building, Reno was captured on a recording by an undercover agent confessing that he attended the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and took steps to conceal his identity, including donning glasses, changing his gait and using a fake cane.

Reno told the same undercover agent that he was a member of a Catholic militia group known as the Church Militant Resistance and that there were plans in the works to target and destroy government buildings.

Reno’s statements to the undercover agent led the FBI to begin surveilling Reno in April. The agency also put a tracking device on his vehicle.

On the day of the Knoxville federal building shooting, the tracking device revealed Reno traveled to downtown Knoxville and slowly circled that building before parking at a nearby church. Reno’s vehicle remained parked at the church for nearly two hours.

Minutes before the shooting, Reno’s vehicle left the church and traveled to the federal building, where the vehicle slowed and shots rang out. According to the FBI warrant, security camera footage captured the driver of that vehicle pointing a rifle out of the window at the time the shots were heard.

The shooting shattered three outer windows of the federal building but did not penetrate the building. Reno’s vehicle sped away seconds after the shooting, according to the FBI.

Court records show Reno had a trove of guns and ammunition, the makings of homemade explosive devices and a bomb-making book and military training manuals in his home at the time of his July 18 arrest and had been using the Internet to search the locations of federal buildings in Tennessee.

Reno and his wife moved to Tennessee in 2020. He was receiving money from the federal government for an unidentified “disability” at the time of his arrest. McCook wrote in a detention order that Reno had a history of violence against loved ones, alcohol abuse and marijuana use.

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Jamie Satterfield
Jamie Satterfield

Jamie Satterfield is an investigative journalist with more than 33 years of experience, specializing in legal affairs, policing, public corruption, environmental crime and civil rights violations. Her journalism has been honored as some of the best in the nation, earning recognition from the Scripps Howard Foundation, the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Awards, the Green Eyeshade Awards, the Tennessee Press Association, the Tennessee Managing Editors Association, the First Amendment Center and many other industry organizations. Her work has led to criminal charges against wrongdoers, changes in state law and citations in legal opinions and journals. She was married to the love of her life for 28 years and is now a widow and proud mother of two successful children of good character and work ethic.