Suspect in Georgia courtroom slayings caught

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Sunday, March 13, 2005

The suspect in the triple murder at a courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia, yesterday surrendered to police after holding a woman hostage in her apartment overnight.

Police believe the suspect, Brian Nichols, may also have killed a U.S. Immigration and Customs agent as he fled to the suburb of Duluth northeast of the city. It is unclear whether the hostage ended her ordeal with Nichols by escaping, or was simply let go, when she reported the incident to the 9-1-1 emergency service.

A multi-agency manhunt for the suspect ended this afternoon with a SWAT team surrounding the apartment of the former hostage. Nichols was able to watch events as they unfolded outside the apartment on the television of his former hostage. Charles Walters, Gwinnett County police chief, said Nichols "literally waved a white flag or a T-shirt and came out to our folks."

The body of federal agent David Wilhelm was found shot to death hours earlier about 15 miles from the scene of the arrest. Police have not directly linked Nichols to the murder, but note that the victim’s pickup truck, badge and pistol were missing.

Vernon Keenan, director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, said of the woman who was held hostage, "It’s my understanding that he had told her, 'If you do what I say, I won’t kill you.'"

Nichols has been taken into federal custody. The ATF announced that they have charged him with possession of a firearm by a person under indictment, while they prepare to file additional charges.