Thursday, April 07, 2005


Atlanta Courthouse Murders - Timeline Questions Unanswered

Link > Metro > Atlanta

Report gives time line of courthouse shootings

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
> Published on: 04/07/05
In a brief executive summary of a three-inch-thick report released this afternoon on what happened the day accused killer Brian Nichols grabbed a deputy's gun and killed three people at the Fulton County Courthouse, Sheriff Myron Freeman acknowledged that the events of March 11, 2005, "caused a great deal of concern and alarm."

Freeman says "exemplary efforts were made by our entire staff" during the crisis.

However, the time line included in the report indicates 21 minutes passed before Deputy Cynthia Hall was found unconscious in the holding cell where the shooting suspect allegedly beat her and took her gun. It also indicated no one responded to a distress call by another deputy in Judge Rowland Barnes' chambers until after three return calls were made to ascertain the cause of the alarm. While those callbacks were made, the gunman shot Barnes and his stenographer Julie Ann Brandau. Nichols then ran down eight flights of stairs, pursued by Sgt. Hoyt Teasley, the time line says. When Nichols reached the street, he turned and shot Teasley in the abdomen, killing him, the report said.

Freeman said Teasley's heroic pursuit "will long be remembered."

Freeman also outlined how Sgt. Grantley White, who was allegedly taken hostage in the judge's chamber by Nichols, feigned a heart attack and fell to the floor so he could trigger the silent distress signal without the gunman knowing. White "displayed extraordinary bravery and savvy as he sounded the first alarm."

Freeman, in the report, said the "security breach" has "forced us to take a fresh look at courthouse security and to begin the process of improving security for the courthouse staff, the public and our deputies."

He continued: "Any security breach is intolerable and we will work tirelessly to ensure that they are prevented. The events serve as a tragic reminder to our staff to be ever vigilant as we perform our duties."

In the report, Freeman does not outline any mistakes his staff might have made that day, but points out that "more than 300 prisoners are brought to the [courthouse] complex each day for hearings and trials."

Freeman said in the report that one deputy may escort up to four handcuffed prisoners. Deputy Hall was alone with Nichols in a holding area when she took off his handcuffs to allow him to change into civilian clothes for court, the report says.

Security cameras recorded Nichols overpowering her and pushing her into another cell where he "most likely, continued to brutally assault her," the report says.

Freeman continues: "Although Central Control [where cameras are monitored on 51 screens] was manned during these events, the brief image of Nichols striking Deputy Hall was not seen at the time."

The report does not say how many deputies were watching the monitors at the time, though Freeman has previously said there was one staffer there who also had other duties. The report also does not say how or when the suspect took Hall's gun, only that it was later used in the shootings.

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