Posted by Sean Severn on March 11, 2005 at 12:27:13:
Three Shot to Death at Ga. Courthouse
By HARRY WEBER, Associated Press Writer
ATLANTA - A judge presiding over a rape trial was shot to death Friday along with two other people at the Fulton County Courthouse, authorities said. A fourth person was critically wounded and the suspect, the defendant at the trial, remained at bay hours later.
Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor confirmed that Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes and his court reporter were killed. He gave no other details in announcing the deaths in the state Senate. A deputy died later at a hospital, authorities said.
Witnesses said the gunman carjacked a car and authorities were searching for a green Honda Accord that was hijacked from a newspaper reporter.
Fulton County Sheriff's Lt. Clarence Huber identified the suspect as 33-year-old Brian Nichols, who was on trial on rape and other charges stemming from an incident in August.
The suspect got the gun by overpowering a sheriff's deputy while he was being escorted within the courthouse, Assistant Police Chief Alan Dreher said. He then went to the courtroom, held about a dozen people there at bay for a short time and then shot and killed the judge and court reporter, he said.
Another deputy was later killed outside the courthouse.
"We are working very diligently to bring the suspect to justice," Dreher said at a midafternoon briefing. Details are still being sorted out; the injured deputy was under sedation, he said. Doctors had said she was wounded in the head.
The people in the courtroom were there for routine civil matters; Nichols was being brought there for the planned resumption of his trial, Dreher said.
"We heard some noise. It sounded like three or four shots. At the time, we thought it was just an engine backfiring," said Chuck Cole, a civil defense attorney who was in an adjoining parking deck when he heard gunfire at around 9:10 a.m.
The sheriff's deputy shot outside the building died at Grady Hospital of an abdominal wound and the other was in critical condition but expected to survive, the hospital said.
"I saw one person on the street that they were performing CPR on," said court reporter Amy McKee.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Don O'Briant, a features reporter for the paper, was beaten by the suspect and carjacked outside the courthouse. O'Briant was taken to Grady.
All the judges in the building were locked in their chambers. The courthouse and other buildings in downtown Atlanta were on lockdown. Schools around the area were also put on lockdown.
Traffic in the blocks surrounding the courthouse was backed up as police cruisers flooded the area.
James Bailey, a juror at Nichols' trial, said the jury was not in the courtroom at the time of the shooting. Bailey said Nichols had made him and other jurors nervous. "Every time he looked up, he was staring at you," Bailey said. He said Barnes was the presiding judge.
Barnes was named to the Fulton County Superior Court bench in 1998.
Among cases he handled was the fatal 2003 car wreck by hockey star Dany Heatley that killed 25-year-old teammate Dan Snyder. Heatley pleaded guilty and was sentenced Feb. 4 to three years on probation and ordered to give 150 speeches about the dangers of speeding.
Barnes, 64, also drew attention last month when he took the unusual step of ordering a mother of seven who pleaded guilty to killing her 5-week-old daughter to undergo a medical procedure that would prevent her from having more children.
The shooting happened 11 days after the husband and elderly mother of a federal judge in Chicago were shot to death in her home. A man whose medical malpractice lawsuit was dismissed by the judge committed suicide and left a note saying he was the killer.
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