Atlanta Shootings Suspect in Court Today
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Atlanta Shootings Suspect in Court Today

Associated Press | March 15, 2005
 
ATLANTA (AP) - The suspect in a crime spree that left a judge and three others dead was expected to face a magistrate Tuesday in his first court appearance since being arrested in the killings.

But Brian Nichols' hearing will not deal with last week's violent rampage in which a court reporter, a sheriff's deputy and a federal agent also died.

The appearance will be for a status hearing. A magistrate judge will explain that Nichols is being held without bond on previous rape charges. Murder charges are expected later, said Erik Friedly, a spokesman for the Fulton County district attorney's office.

Nichols, 33, is accused of overpowering a deputy Friday in the Fulton County Courthouse, taking her gun and fatally shooting Judge Rowland Barnes, who was presiding over his rape trial and the court reporter, Julie Brandau. Police said he then killed Sgt. Hoyt Teasley, a deputy who tried to stop him outside the courthouse, and that night gunned down federal agent David Wilhelm.

(AP) A hearse carrying the body of U.S. Immigration and Customs Special Agent David Wilhelm is escorted...
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Nichols was apprehended Saturday after he released a woman he had held hostage for seven hours in her apartment. She called 911 and pointed police to Nichols, who surrendered peacefully to a SWAT team.

Tuesday's hearing comes as authorities face criticism that better security and more thorough police work could have saved lives Friday.

Authorities said Nichols overpowered deputy Cynthia Hall, took her gun, and easily gained access to the courtroom, where he went on to kill the judge and a court reporter. Security cameras captured images of him overpowering the deputy, but no one, it turned out, was watching the screens.

There were other gaffes.

The vehicle reported to be his getaway car was found more than 13 hours after the shootings - in the same parking garage from which authorities thought it had been carjacked. Nichols apparently escaped unnoticed on a commuter train to another part of the city.

Authorities are investigating how the security breakdowns happened and are vowing changes will be made.

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