March 12, 2005

Brian Nichols

Posted at March 12, 2005 1:05 AM

Hunt for court shooter Brian Nichols spreads to other states

A man being escorted into court for trial Friday stole a gun, then killed the judge, a court stenographer and a sheriff's deputy before fleeing. The attack set off a massive manhunt and chaos across Atlanta.

Hundreds of officers in cruisers and helicopters swarmed the area in search of 33-year-old Brian Nichols, who remained at large Friday night. He had been on trial for rape, burglary and other charges stemming from an incident involving an ex-girlfriend.

Around the city, schools, restaurants and office buildings were locked down amid fears the killer might strike again. As the search spread to several states, Nichols' mug shot was all over TV screens, and highway message boards issued descriptions of the stolen vehicle he was in.

"Mr. Nichols is considered armed and extremely dangerous and should not be approached," Fulton County Sheriff Myron Freeman said. "We are not going to rest until we find him."

Nichols got a semiautomatic pistol by overpowering Sgt. Cynthia Hall, who was leading him to trial down an eighth-floor corridor in the Fulton County Courthouse, Assistant Police Chief Alan Dreher said.

After shooting Hall in the head, he went into the courtroom, held about a dozen people at bay for a short time and shot and killed Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes and court reporter Julie Brandau, authorities said.

Dreher said Nichols then ran down eight flights of stairs and fled outside, followed by another deputy, Sgt. Hoyt Teasley, who was fatally shot outside.

Nichols hijacked at least three vehicles, authorities said, before pistol-whipping a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, stealing his green 1997 Honda Accord and speeding away. "I thought this was a routine carjack," the reporter, Don O'Briant, said later.

Hall was in critical condition after surgery with a split forehead, facial fractures and a bruised brain, said Jeffrey Salomone, a trauma surgeon at Grady Memorial Hospital.



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