Defendant shoots Judge, three others at Atlanta courthouse

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Friday, March 11, 2005

A defendant on trial for rape in Atlanta, Georgia reportedly stole a deputy sheriff's handgun and used it to shoot the judge, court reporter, and two deputies Friday morning. Three people were killed and one was wounded.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Rowland W. Barnes has been confirmed dead along with the court reporter and one of the deputies. After the shootings, the suspect reportedly attempted to carjack several cars in a bid to escape. He attempted to carjack a green Honda Accord with license plate 6584-YN, from a newspaper reporter, but eventually fled by other means. The reporter in question, Don O'Briant from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was beaten by the suspect but was fortunate to receive only cuts to his face and a broken face from a fall.

The car was listed as being used by the suspect in public alerts across the area before it was realised that the car was in fact still in the garage of the courthouse.

The suspect has been identified as Brian Nichols, 34, who was facing a retrial for rape and kidnapping after the first trial ended with a hung jury. Police are desperately searching for Nichols, as he is considered armed and dangerous.

The suspect reportedly stole the handgun by overpowering a deputy sheriff while he was being taken into the courtroom by the deputy, said Assistant Police Chief Alan Dreher. He then shot and critically wounded the female deputy, went to the courtroom where his trial was due to take place, and held about a dozen people at bay there before killing the judge and court reporter. He later shot and killed another deputy outside.

The deputy from whom Nichols stole the handgun is now sedated and in critical condition after surgery and has a bruise in her brain, according to Jeffrey Salomone, an attending trauma surgeon at Grady Memorial Hospital. Although she was shot in the head, the bullet did not penetrate her skull, said Salomone.


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