Within minutes of attorney Tom Pickert’s murder Wednesday morning at his Brookside home, his colleagues in a recent case started worrying about their own safety.
One lawyer had assisted Pickert in an effort to secure assets from the defendant in a multi-million dollar civil case that Pickert and his partner had won in July. That lawyer said his family hasn’t let him walk the dog or get the mail since Pickert’s death.
“We became pretty religious about setting the alarm system at home and I started looking over my shoulder,” said the man, who has a wife and five children. “But I’m still going to the office. I’m not letting this change my life.”
The Star is not identifying the lawyer because the shooter remains at large.
With the killer of Brookside lawyer Tom Pickert still free, lawyers who worked with Pickert say they and their families have taken precautions.
And a Jackson County judge in a civil case where Pickert secured a $5.7 million judgment sealed all court records that could potentially identify jurors who decided the legal matter. Jurors decided against a businessman who had shot a homeless man on his property.
The businessman was served legal papers on Tuesday.
The lawyer with the five kids had started the legal work of seizing the man’s real estate to pay the judgment.
“Until this thing kind of works itself out and they figure out who did this, I am being moderately cautious to the extent that I can,” the lawyer said.
Pickert, 39, was fatally shot just after he returned to his home in the 200 block of West 66th Terrace early Wednesday after walking his children to school.
Pickert’s wife called police after hearing gunshots and finding her husband sprawled on their front porch. It appeared that Pickert was shot at close range. Immediately after the shooting, a car was heard speeding away.
Shortly after the shooting, police asked for help finding a white 1997 Chevrolet van with Missouri license 6FA 453. By late Wednesday afternoon, police found the van in Raytown — unoccupied.
Police spoke with the van’s owner but did not arrest him. The van owner has not been identified as a person of interest in the shooting.
On Friday, police said the case remained open and their investigation was ongoing. Police have not released any suspect information.
Pickert was a lawyer for the firm Fowler Pickert Eisenmenger LLC in Kansas City. As a personal injury lawyer, he focused on medical malpractice, nursing home and long-term care abuse cases.
Several attorneys connected to the civil case said they closed their law offices after hearing that Pickert had been fatally shot.
One lawyer said: “I have legit concerns about my safety as long as he is out.”
It’s not only lawyers who are fearful. One medical expert witness emailed The Star about his own fears after testifying.
“It’s pretty obvious who shot Mr. Pickert,” the physician wrote. “A gun-wielding wacko with multiple gun charges to his credit who had no qualms about shooting intruders or threatening people with a gun. My only hope is that the police are letting him run around free in an effort to follow his movements and gain further incriminating evidence.”
On Thursday, presiding Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Joel Fahnestock wrote that she decided to seal personal information about the jurors in the civil case “due to concern for the safety of individuals involved.”
One of Pickert’s law partners, Ryan Fowler, on Friday made his first public comment since the shooting.
“We are shocked and devastated by the senseless and sudden loss of our friend and partner, Tom Pickert,” Fowler said in a written statement. “Tom was a passionate and fearless advocate for his clients, and that passion permeated all aspects of his life. He was a wonderful father, husband and friend. The way he lived his life inspired us to not only be better attorneys, but better people.”
Sgt. Kari Thompson said she did not know whether Pickert had been threatened before the shooting. Thompson said several people have contacted police worried about their safety. The department provides extra patrol assistance as requested.
“We encourage those who feel unsafe to reach out to us with those concerns,” Thompson said. “We have community interaction officers at each of our division stations that are more than happy to assist with questions and offer assistance.”
Fowler said the outpouring of support from the community was appreciated.
“It has been remarkable to witness how many lives Tom touched in a positive way,” Fowler said. “Although Tom will be truly missed, we are forever grateful for the time we had with him and the enduring impact he leaves on our lives and the community as a whole.”