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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Suspect in Atlanta Courthouse Shooting Eludes Authorities as Manhunt Continues
Aired March 12, 2005 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: From the CNN Center, this is an extended live edition of CNN SATURDAY MORNING. Welcome back. I'm Betty Nguyen.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Tony Harris.
We are continuing our coverage of the manhunt for the suspect in the Atlanta courthouse shootings. There have been several new developments in the case. And let's take a moment now and reset what we know at this point.
I feel the need to say this. What we're reporting now with regard to the body found this morning is what...
NGUYEN: On Lenox Road.
HARRIS: On Lenox road is what The Associated Press is reporting. Then there is what The Associated Press is reporting, and then there is what CNN is independently confirming and reporting.
What we want to do at this point is back off, just take a step back from some of the AP reporting. You've heard me say during the course of the morning and the last five minutes or so that police have found the body of a U.S. Customs agent. That is according to The Associated Press. That is not something that CNN is independently confirming and reporting at this time.
So at this point, what CNN is independently reporting is that police have uncovered a body on Lenox Road, and we are still working to determine the other facts surrounding this killing. But we can -- and Betty, you have information about the pickup truck in question.
NGUYEN: Exactly. A body found today in Atlanta right off of Lenox Road, which is a major road in the Buckhead area if you're familiar with Atlanta, and a pickup truck, a '94 blue Chevy pickup truck with the Georgia license plate APG6121 is missing. So if you are in the area, you're headed out on the roadways, keep a lookout for a 1994 blue Chevy pickup truck with Georgia license plate APG6121.
This, we are being told, is connected to the body that was found on Lenox Road this morning in Atlanta. Again, we do not know if it is connected with Mr. Brian Nichols, the suspect in the courthouse shootings yesterday. But, of course, this is a developing story. We will bring you that information as soon as it's available to us.
HARRIS: OK. Let's get you caught up with other news this morning, starting with an update on this case.
A 1997 green Honda Accord was towed out of a downtown Atlanta parking garage last night. Police say it's the car Brian Nichols took at gunpoint from a newspaper reporter in the same garage.
Nichols is suspected in yesterday's deadly shooting rampage at the Fulton County Courthouse. And just a few minutes ago, as we've been reporting, Atlanta police chief Richard Pennington said authorities believe Nichols now has least two weapons, two weapons in his possession. We'll have a live report one minute from now.
The funeral for the mother of a federal judge is being held in a Denver suburb today. Donna Humphrey was killed early -- nearly two weeks ago at the Chicago home of her daughter, Joan Lefkow. Lefkow's husband was also killed, as you'll remember. His funeral was last Saturday. Police say a suspect, Bart Ross, shot himself during a traffic stop in Milwaukee earlier this week.
Syrian President Bashar Assad gave a U.N. envoy a timetable for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. The envoy will give details of the plan to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan next week. He says the plan includes all Syrian troops and intelligence agents.
NGUYEN: All right. Back to our top story this morning.
Video from a security camera shows Atlanta courthouse shooting suspect Brian Nichols heading to a lower level of a downtown parking garage. A shirtless Nichols is seen here putting on a jacket as he heads down the stairs. It is the same garage where Nichols took a car at gunpoint.
Now, that car, a green Honda, was later found still in the garage. Investigators aren't sure how Nichols got out of the garage, whether he left on foot or if he took another car.
Now, police in Georgia and neighboring states continue their massive manhunt for suspect Brian Nichols, who is considered armed and very dangerous. Atlanta police chief Richard Pennington has just given CNN some new information.
Police now believe Nichols took a gun yesterday from the deputy sheriff who was guarding him and then accosted another deputy and took that gun as well. So Atlanta police believe that Brian Nichols has at least two weapons at this time.
More on the manhunt now from CNN's Kimberly Osias, who is in downtown Atlanta, standing outside of that garage that we were talking about.
Unless you moved your location -- Kimberly.
KIMBERLY OSIAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, I'm still here, Betty. That is because this is still a critical area to the investigation.
Authorities have returned here. They are retracing the steps. And the door behind me where Mr. Nichols could have possibly exited, they have spotlights on that area. And they are looking inside.
We are actually on the third floor. Interestingly, the third floor is the ground level for us, but not of this actual garage.
Now, Mr. Nichols was believed to have gone into the second floor landing area. Now, that is that exclusive video. And we can't show it enough because police are utilizing it as well in their investigation, hoping to get some fresh leads from that. That is exclusive CNN video, surveillance video that we have been showing you.
Then he walked down the stairs. And I actually retraced those steps myself. My photographer and I just went down there to look at it again, and there is one small dome camera on that first level where he's believed to have stopped. And you could easily, clearly see where that was if you were sort of stealth and you knew what to look for, and you could clearly avoid that.
Now, interestingly, that arm, there is a wooden arm at that the exit that is broken. Now, I want to point out, police have not connected that break to Mr. Nichols yet. They haven't ruled it out, but they haven't necessarily ruled it in either.
Of course, this area is a central area, downtown Fulton County. And there have been the SEC Basketball tournaments going on. So definitely a bustle of activity as well.
Police, of course, are making sure that every I is dotted, every T is crossed, and that they will do everything they can to find Brian Nichols.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF RICHARD PENNINGTON, ATLANTA POLICE DEPT.: We think right after he took the first deputy's weapon he got engaged with another deputy. And we believe that he took that person's weapon, too.
HARRIS: Before he got to the courtroom?
PENNINGTON: Yes. And so now we believe now that -- in fact, we know that he's in possession of two weapons. And so that information came about yesterday evening, late.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OSIAS: In possession of two weapons, armed and very dangerous.
Now, when you leave this area, you can either use a swipe card, a pass card, if you will, or you can pay cash. Mr. Nichols is not believed to have had cash, but clearly that is something that he will need. Police believe that he may go back to what they call his comfort zone. They are certainly canvassing that area, waiting and watching for a mistake -- Betty, Tony.
NGUYEN: Kimberly, let's talk about the area where you're standing right now. I see the trucks behind you. Is this area just I guess a bird's-eye view of where that gate was that was broken? And are there security cameras around that area that can give some kind of indication if Mr. Nichols came out of that entrance or that exit, it would give them an indication of where he may have gone?
OSIAS: Betty, that is a great question. When I went down there, it is absolutely a clear shot from that one dome camera. If you absolutely avoided it, you knew what to look for, straight shot out and no cameras near the exit there.
NGUYEN: So that really ties down investigators' hands when it comes to searching through that video to determine if he went out level one of that parking garage. Kimberly Osias in downtown Atlanta. Thanks for that report. We'll be checking in with you a little bit later. Thanks, Kimberly.
HARRIS: And Betty, just a heads up to you. There's more information coming in and I printed it for you on the subsequent shooting that we're following this morning on Lenox Road in Atlanta.
All right. Moving forward now, with the massive search under way throughout Georgia and surrounding states for Nichols, many wonder what it's going to take to track him down. Here to tell us what's involved in a multi-state manhunt, former FBI investigator Bill Daly, who joins us from New York.
Bill, good to see you, as always.
BILL DALY, FMR. FBI INVESTIGATOR: Good morning.
HARRIS: What do you do? What do you do? Take us where are investigators right now, 25 hours into this?
DALY: Well, Tony, there are a number of different facets that the police, local police in Atlanta, state police in Georgia, the FBI and surrounding states are starting to do, and that is start looking at people who Nichols may have had contact with, people you referred to a little bit earlier as being kind of in his comfort zone, things that he's used to doing, people he's used to contacting.
HARRIS: The friends and family network?
DALY: Exactly. And also, as was pointed out earlier, you know, he has a situation now where he is on the run. He'll have a need for cash if he expects to continue to be on the run. And he needs to get that from someplace.
Well, it may be committing another crime or it may be going to the comfort zone and getting people to aid and abet him. So that's why police are going to be looking at those types of contacts. They're also going to be posting information across the various law enforcement networks, not just in posters, but also through NCIC, which is the information system law enforcement uses when they go to check vehicles or individuals when they're stopped. You know what's quite interesting, Tony, is that I just want to point out, in some of the video you showed a few minutes ago from the Turner security systems, is that his demeanor seemed quite comfortable. I mean, at one point he has hands in his pockets.
It's certainly of concern that this individual may feel comfortable going out into the public, committing other crimes. I know we're talking about another incident which we have not connected at all with him.
DALY: But it certainly is of concern that there's someone like this on the run, that they may look to get cars, money, perhaps even some protection from the public.
HARRIS: Yes. Bill, we're looking at that surveillance video right now. And I, when I first saw it, was absolutely stunned at how composed he is.
This is a man accused of horrific crimes being on an absolute adrenaline rush as he's running through the streets of downtown Atlanta. And as you look at him here, he has already carjacked a couple of people, and here he is walking down the steps, the stairwells of this parking garage like he's on a Sunday stroll.
DALY: Yes. Well, that was the first thing that struck me. You know, as you start to profile individuals, whether criminals, whether there's people involved in intelligence, you always look to see the way they act and behave. And this individual, the concern I have is that he has this ability to be able to then act in a very which would appear just in the short video, a more controlled manner, which then may not be as alertive (ph) to people who are -- who may be passing him on the street.
So we need to be very cognizant to clue in the public that this is someone who isn't necessarily just driving recklessly through the streets, but it could be somebody who has a -- who certainly has a purpose of avoiding police at this point and may be very comfort, may look very calm if they were to be approached by him.
HARRIS: What does it say to you through your history and your experience that 25 hours later, with all of the resources being thrown at this, broadcast energy, and certainly law enforcement energy and resources, what does it say to you that 25 hours after these crimes he still hasn't been caught?
DALY: Well, you know, certainly not too surprised. You know, in early parts of an investigation, you know, it takes a while for the momentum of the investigative team to start, you know, getting quickly, you know, on his trail. And there maybe some missed clues or clues that are found out later on that are certainly germane.
Also, don't forget police need to be looking at the sites where he's committed these crimes as crime scenes. And they also need to be dispatching people there to collect data, collect evidence that might be used later on.
So we have a number of things police are involved in. But I think one very important thing is, is that we're certainly at a very important time in our country's history where we have the ability to go through news outlets, to be able to cover stories like this, to keep people apprised, to be able to use the public much like was used when we were able to catch the snipers down in the Washington area.
DALY: This all plays into it, is that the more public attention to it, the better. Certainly people need to be cognizant of their own safety, but to report things into police. So between police, this broadcasting of the information, I feel confident that he will be caught. And we hope that he will be caught and brought in safely without endangering anyone else.
HARRIS: OK. I want to get more of the internals, the anatomy of a manhunt. We know that the command center is in Fulton County, being operated by the Fulton County Sheriff's Department. And when I think of this command center, I see a multi-armed command center with information going in and out.
How do they operate? Is it cumbersome? Can it be? Or is it facile and streamlined, where information moves in quickly and out quickly?
DALY: Well, you know, Tony, certainly since 9/11, I think a lot of the coordination between various agencies also helps in situations like this when looking at criminal acts. And although it can be from the outside looking in, you know, somewhat chaotic, with people looking at information on telephones, following up leads, people coming and going out of a command center, I think in this case we're probably looking at something that's fairly well orchestrated, working together with different agencies.
People have various responsibilities, they'll be tracking down leads. They'll have calls coming in from people who are calling in on the tip lines. They'll have information that comes in from other law enforcement agencies. Information that's dug out of past files as to his comfort zone, people who he may be in contact with, who he has had casual, closer contact with.
DALY: And they'll be tracking down those leads. So, listen, in any of these situations, there's no one script. There's no one, you know, order of order called. But I would say that law enforcement working together, working together since 9/11 on certainly the more, you know, larger issues of terrorism, come in to play and help in these type of manhunts.
HARRIS: That's very good. It gives us a window into the operation. We appreciate it. Bill Daly, former FBI investigator. Bill, as always, thanks.
DALY: Thank you, Tony.
NGUYEN: All right. I want to bring you up to date on a breaking news story that we've been reporting, at least from the top of this hour.
Right now, the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, the director there, Vernon Keenan, has told CNN that Atlanta is working a murder this morning. And it also says that he could not connect it to the manhunt for Brian Nichols at this time, but he says, "They only call me when they know it is connected."
Now, I want to tell you that The Associated Press is reporting today that a U.S. Customs agent was found dead this morning. And officials say that his blue 1994 Chevy pickup truck with Georgia license plate -- you see it right there on the screen -- ATG6121 is missing.
The AP is also reporting that his pistol and badge were stolen. And it also says that the shooting occurred in the same general area where Brian Nichols used to live.
Now, that is attributed to The Associated Press. CNN has confirmed that this truck, the license plate that you see right here on your screen, is in indeed missing, this 1994 blue Chevrolet pickup truck, and that person has been reported dead near Lenox Road, which is in the Buckhead area of Atlanta.
HARRIS: And just a further update, Betty. We're just getting word that CNN has confirmed now independently that this is in fact an off-duty U.S. Customs agent who was found shot and killed. The most telling part of this information is when Vernon Keenan, the director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, says, "They only call me when they know it is connected."
NGUYEN: And of course we will continue to follow this story all morning long. We are in live, rolling coverage of the manhunt for Brian Nichols, the suspect in the courthouse shootings which happened yesterday. Do stay with CNN for the latest on this story.
HARRIS: We'll be right back.
HARRIS: Let's update our top story, the nation's top story for last 25 hours now. At this point you know that authorities are desperately searching for Brian Nichols. Nichols, as you know, is wanted in connection with the murders of three Fulton County court employees, including Judge Rowland Barnes.
Here is the latest information. GBI director, his name is Vernon Keenan, told CNN a short time ago that Atlanta police is working a murder. But he couldn't say whether it is connected to the courthouse shooting suspect and the manhunt.
Here's what we know additionally. The Associated Press is reporting, and CNN has confirmed independently, that an off-duty U.S. Customs agent was found shot dead today, Saturday, and that the manhunt is now looking for a 1994 Chevrolet pickup truck.
The off-duty U.S. Customs agent's pistol and badge were stolen at the scene. There is the tag number: ATG6121. It is a 1994 blue Chevy 1500 4 x 4 pickup truck.
Here is the most chilling part of the announcement from Vernon Keenan this morning. He tells CNN, "They only call me," his office, Vernon Keenan, "when they know it is connected." So at least in Vernon Keenan's mind the body found this morning of the off-duty U.S. Customs agent is connected to Brian Nichols and yesterday's murders as well.
We will continue obviously to gather additional information. We have reporters working the story. And we will bring you the latest as we get it, the moment we get it.
Authorities say Brian Nichols grabbed a deputy's gun and killed two people inside Atlanta's Fulton County Courthouse. One, as we just mentioned, was superior court Judge Rowland Barnes. Then a sheriff's deputy, Sergeant Hoyt Teasley, as later killed outside the courthouse when he ran after Nichols.
Another deputy, Cynthia Hall, was shot while leading Nichols into court. She remains in critical condition but is expected to survive. And the court reporter who was shot and killed inside the courtroom was identified as Julie Ann Brandau.
NGUYEN: And as you can imagine, for many people in Atlanta the courthouse shootings were very personal. Those killed are being remembered by so many people today. One of the victims, Judge Barnes, was considered a giant in the legal community who saw fairness in all of his decisions.
Here's CNN's Paula Zahn.
JUDGE ROLAND BARNES: Is there anyone here in court for a case whose name I did not call?
PAULA ZAHN, "PAULA ZAHN NOW" (voice-over): A voice that will never be heard again. Judge Roland Barnes was 64. He came up through the ranks, a hard working magistrate and city court judge in Atlanta suburbs, before becoming a Superior Court judge in 1998. He had a reputation of cutting through red tape and having good relations with reporters, co- workers and lawyers.
Attorney B.J. Bernstein knew Judge Barnes well.
B.J. BERNSTEIN, ATTORNEY: A really wonderful judge. Sometimes we hear the reputations of judges having tantrums or being very strict. He was somebody who handled himself where both parties got to have a say. Whichever side you were on, you got to be able to say your points, and then he made a decision, and usually, it was a fair one. ZAHN: Some of his decisions were controversial. When a mother of seven children pleaded guilty in the beating death of her newborn daughter, Judge Barnes allowed the woman to avoid jail time, in return for her agreeing to be sterilized.
Just last month, Judge Barnes handled the case of Atlanta's popular hockey star, Danny Heatley, whose car was allegedly going 90 miles an hour when it crashed, killing a teammate. The dead man's family urged Judge Barnes to keep Heatley out of jail and not destroy his professional hockey career. Judge Barnes listened and gave Heatley probation.
HARRIS: Father, husband, good man.
NGUYEN: And to many in the Atlanta area.
HARRIS: Good man.
As shocking as this crime is to the public, it's also surprising to some of Nichols' family members.
NGUYEN: What they're saying about the man who killed three people and has police across the country on the lookout. The incident shines a bright line on what looks like a glaring breakdown in courtroom security. We look at that when CNN SATURDAY returns.
NGUYEN: Shooting suspect Brian Nichols grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. People there say they are shocked by the news of the crimes he's accused of. CNN's Kathleen Koch is in Baltimore with reaction from Nichols' family.
Kathleen, what do you know?
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, here in this neighborhood, needless to say, people are just completely stunned. We're standing in front of the home of Brian Nichols' uncle, Reginald Small. And everyone that we have spoken with, we, as well as our Baltimore affiliates who are helping us out on this story, describes Brian Nichols as a young boy, a good boy. They say he was smart, gentle, he never fought with anyone, never had a bad word to say about anyone.
He went to high school in the area. He played football there. Also, later in Pennsylvania, when he attended Kutztown University, was a very well-known, very popular football star at that university.
But again, what we have heard from the family members is that the man charged with these bloody shootings in Atlanta yesterday morning is simply not the boy that they knew.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REGGIE SMALL, COUSIN: Real normal kid, man. Swinging from trees and just playing with his little toys and stuff. Never, never no problem.
I don't even think I heard him raise his voice. You know, I've never seen him get mad.
I'm sorry about the families. You know, my whole family, we send our sympathy out for the families that's involved and for his family. You know, his mother and father.
I mean, this is -- it's a terrible thing. And I just don't know what to say about it. It's just not -- that's not the person that we know. That's not the one that we love.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOCH: Now, suspect Brian Nichols' parents do still live here in the Baltimore area. But we're told that Gene (ph) and Kathera Nichols (ph) right now are in Africa on business, though they do plan to return to the area next week.
Now, here in northeast Baltimore, at least at the relatives' home, we have not seen any police present. So we don't know if this area is staked out at all. Where Brian Nichols grew up is actually several blocks south of here in the Waverly (ph) neighborhood. Be you can be certain that Baltimore police are keeping a close watch out for suspect Brian Nichols -- Betty.
NGUYEN: Kathleen, with the manhunt under way at this hour, I have to ask you, have his relatives mentioned that maybe Brian Nichols has contacted them in any way?
KOCH: When we spoke to the uncle this morning, Reginald Small, he told us that they hadn't heard from Brian in quite some time. So we don't know if, again, that -- they certainly didn't say he had contacted them since the shootings yesterday. But you can be certain that police will be asking them questions like that.
NGUYEN: All right. CNN's Kathleen Koch in Baltimore. Thank you, Kathleen.
HARRIS: OK. Let's get you caught up with all of the day's news.
The hunt is on for a man -- we've been telling you about it all morning long -- police say killed a judge and three others in Atlanta. Thirty-three-year-old Brian Nichols slipped out of a parking garage either on foot or in a stolen car after a shooting rampage yesterday in an Atlanta courthouse.
Meantime, officers are trying to determine if the killing of a Customs agent in Atlanta is related to Nichols. The Associate Press reports the agent's body was found this morning, and the agent's truck, pistol and badge were stolen.
President Bush is spending lots of effort and energy pushing his Social Security agenda. He's been traveling all week to promote his plan and use the Saturday radio address to focus on his changes that include private retirement accounts. A new Associated Press poll finds a majority of Americans disagree with President Bush on the state of Social Security.
Students across the nation are sharpening new number 2 pencils to take the new S.A.T. test this morning. The updated version of the college entrance exam includes an essay and tougher math problems. The essay is also 45 minutes longer, which means it's going to take nearly four hours to get to the end of it all.
NGUYEN: You know they are not happy about that. Nearly four hours.
All right. Back to our top story.
Earlier this morning we talked with Atlanta's police chief.
HARRIS: Yes, and that's Richard Pennington. Coming up, what he and his department face and where they go next. We'll hear from the chief when CNN SATURDAY MORNING returns.
NGUYEN: Police in Georgia and neighboring states are still on a massive manhunt for suspect Brian Nichols, considered armed and very dangerous. Authorities are still appealing to the public for information, and reward totals now $60,000. That is at last report.
We want to get another update on the manhunt now from CNN's Kimberly Osias, who is in downtown Atlanta.
OSIAS: Hello, Betty.
Well, this is still a key area. And one thing I want to point out that police have just told CNN is that they can confirm that Mr. Brian Nichols has two guns on his person. Two guns. He is armed and very dangerous, as you said.
This area where I'm standing, I'm actually on the third floor of the parking garage. Now, this area is where we last have a picture of Mr. Nichols. Now, this surveillance video, exclusive CNN video, is actually being combed over, pored over by investigators.
What he did, they say, is that he went down to this second floor landing, as you can see. You walk out just down there. There is a camera up above. And it is interesting to note that you can clearly tell he doesn't have a shirt on underneath, he's bare-chested.
He has on another jacket. Perhaps that is the one of the reporter whom he is believed to have pistol-whipped. A reporter from the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution." He wasn't interested in anything about the reporter, just wanted his car, actually. The reporter said that he wanted him to get in the trunk but he said, no, he wouldn't. And actually, fortunately, he is doing well. A broken arm and some cuts over his eye.
But then this gentleman went on downstairs. He went all the way down to the bottom. That green '97 car, the green Honda, is not what he escaped in.
They don't know whether he hot-wired a car or if he walked out on his own power. But the exit here has a wooden arm, a wooden arm that in fact is broken. Now, whether the break in that arm is due to Mr. Nichols' escape or not, police are not sure. They are not ruling it out or ruling it in at this point.
But I want to point out, this is a very busy area. A hub of activity downtown, especially right now. The SEC Basketball championships are going on. So it could be related to something else -- Betty.
NGUYEN: I want to ask you, with the SEC tournament under way right now, and this manhunt under way as well, are police telling folks to stay indoors if at all possible? What kind of cautions are they asking people to take?
OSIAS: I've actually not heard that, Betty. You actually spoke to police a little bit more recently than I. So you may be more abreast of that than I am.
One thing I do want to note is that police are asking for the public's health. Of course when you exit this area you do need a badge, or you can pay cash. They don't believe that Mr. Nichols had any cash on him.
They do believe, however, that is something that he needs. They think that he will go back to his comfort zone. And they have certainly put people in place in case that happens, and then sort of concentric circles out there in case he hits that area as well. They are really simply watching and waiting right now, waiting for Mr. Nichols to make a mistake.
NGUYEN: In fact, Atlanta police basically said that they put up a number that people can call if there's any information. But I have to ask you, you're standing there out on the street where folks who are attending the tournament, folks in downtown Atlanta, tourists, whatnot, would be walking. Does it appear that people are carrying on their normal activity outside today, despite this manhunt?
OSIAS: Well, you know, Betty, it appears so. I mean, we have actually had some people coming by, taking pictures just of this whole affair because, of course, obviously certainly in the Southeast and here, tremendous focus of attention. And people certainly within the area have been concerned.
I actually -- I just flew in last night, spoke to some friends that actually had a home within the vicinity. They actually were going to stay somewhere else just in case. NGUYEN: Kimberly Osias in downtown Atlanta. Thanks so much -- Tony.
HARRIS: OK. Earlier this morning, I had a chance to speak with Atlanta police chief Richard Pennington about the latest in the ongoing investigation.
HARRIS: Pleased to welcome Atlanta police chief Richard Pennington to the set this morning.
Chief, good to see you.
PENNINGTON: Thank you. Glad to be here.
HARRIS: We go back a ways. And so I know you'll tell me everything that you can.
PENNINGTON: That's right.
HARRIS: First of all, give me an update on where we stand now in the investigation, and then we'll backtrack and cover a number of issues.
PENNINGTON: OK. Well, last night, probably around 1000 or so, we retrieved the automobile, the Honda. And so the -- my officers were in the process of processing the crime scene, looking for evidence. And in addition to that, we've gone out and made contact with friends of the suspect, associates, relatives, and people that he was known to hang out with.
PENNINGTON: And so the hunt is still ongoing. We have a taskforce that we put together with the FBI, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Atlanta Police Department, our fugitive unit and the Marshals Service. And so it's become very intensified in terms of really locating this dangerous criminal so we can take him off the street.
HARRIS: Chief, give me a sense of what you were able to learn from friends and associates. Did they give you, paint any kind of a picture of Brian Nichols, the kind of guy he is, what he is capable of? I think we have an idea by now.
PENNINGTON: Yes. Yes.
HARRIS: His habits, his patterns?
PENNINGTON: Well, I think -- I think what we've been able to ascertain from some of his associates is that he's -- he has a temper at times. And he -- he's the type of person that gets around. He has a lot of friends, and very athletic. And can be very violent, prone to violence. And so we are trying to put all of this together. And then, of course, we've had some people say some good things about him that, you know, he's mild-mannered and respectful and et cetera. But all we know at this time that is he's -- he's killed three people.
PENNINGTON: And so we have to believe that he's very dangerous. He's armed. He took a weapon from a deputy. And I think at this time we believe that he had taken another weapon.
So not only did he take one weapon from one deputy, we believe he took another weapon, a second weapon as well. And so we are still piecing all of this information together.
HARRIS: A second weapon?
PENNINGTON: Yes. We believe that.
HARRIS: That's a bit of new information.
PENNINGTON: Yes, it is. It's a bit of new information that we now have learned, that not only did he take one, he took two.
And so this is the stuff that we are piecing together now. And so the information is still coming in. And we know that -- that he left the garage...
HARRIS: Well, let me stop you.
HARRIS: Let me stop you. Let me just recap and frame up this new bit of information. We know that he -- that he jumped the sheriff deputy, Hall, and took her weapon.
PENNINGTON: Right. That's right.
HARRIS: And when did he acquire, take, this second weapon?
PENNINGTON: We think right after he took the first deputy's weapon he got engaged with another deputy. And we believe that he took that person's weapon, too.
HARRIS: Before he got to the courtroom?
PENNINGTON: Yes. And so now we believe now that -- in fact we know that he's in possession of two weapons. And so that information came about yesterday evening, late.
And so we still are putting this information together. And people say, well, you know, he had one weapon, he could have possibly run out of bullets and et cetera. But we do know that he has two guns.
HARRIS: That's not an assumption to make. PENNINGTON: Yes.
HARRIS: OK. Let me take you back to the car, because the question that a lot of folks in this newsroom and a lot of folks watching have about the car situation, this is a car, a 1997 Honda Accord.
HARRIS: You had the statement, the brief statement from Don O'Briant.
HARRIS: You knew it was his car.
HARRIS: You had a description and a tag number.
HARRIS: Walk me through the process of trying to find that car and if that parking garage, the centennial garage, had ever been searched. Because we know now that that car was found.
HARRIS: By a private citizen in that garage...
HARRIS: ... where O'Briant was and where he was pistol-whipped and carjacked.
PENNINGTON: Yes. Well, let me -- I'm going to try to see if I can put that together for you.
PENNINGTON: The car was taken on the upper level. And information that we received was that, after the suspect took the automobile from the AJC reporter, he exited the garage. And that was the information that we had received.
HARRIS: So the information you received is that he exited the garage with the car?
PENNINGTON: That's right.
PENNINGTON: And that's why we did not go back and search the entire parking garage.
HARRIS: And that didn't necessarily come from O'Briant, but it's information that you learned?
PENNINGTON: No. Right.
PENNINGTON: Information that we learned. The car was last seen exiting the garage. And so, subsequently, later on that evening, after many of the cars had exited the garage, one of the employees, security employees, located the vehicle down on the lower level.
HARRIS: I see.
PENNINGTON: And so that's what happened. And so we didn't have a reason to believe that the car was still in the garage.
HARRIS: All right. That's where we were about an hour ago. And there have been major developments since.
NGUYEN: Absolutely. Those developments include a U.S. Customs agent which is reported dead. That person found dead on Lenox Road, which is in the Buckhead area of Atlanta for those familiar with Atlanta.
That person also is missing a gun and a badge which was stolen from the scene of that shooting where that U.S. Customs agent was found dead. That agent's vehicle is also missing.
Now, this was an off-duty U.S. Customs agent. His 1994 Chevy blue pickup truck, Georgia license plate APG6121. Be on the lookout for that.
Also, a very interesting piece of information connected to this. We do know not know if this is indeed connected to Brian Nichols, of which the manhunt is under way right now. But the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the director over there, Vernon Keenan, says that, while this cannot be connected at this time officially, he says, quote, told this to CNN, "They only call me when they know it's connected." But again, CNN has not independently confirmed that this killing of an off-duty U.S. Customs agent is connected to the manhunt for Brian Nichols.
HARRIS: We'll take a break and come back with more of our extended special coverage on CNN SATURDAY MORNING."
NGUYEN: You are watching continuing coverage of the manhunt for Brian Nichols. The shooting rampage has sparked a lot of concern over courthouse security. Namely, are judges, prosecutors and other courthouse staffers safe from the people on trial?
CNN's Randi Kaye explores that question.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Judge Henry Newkirk has been working at the Fulton County Courthouse for more than two decades. He was a friend of Judge Rowland Barnes, the two were sworn in together.
(on camera): Do you feel like security here is enough?
JUDGE HENRY NEWKIRK, FULTON COUNTY STATE COURT: I feel that in the last 23 years that I've been here, security has been adequate. You know, it's not the best and the tightest. I'm not saying we couldn't do a better job. But I think it's a balancing act.
KAYE (voice-over): Judge Newkirk would not go into detail about what he thinks needs to be improved here, but he did talk about security measures now in place.
NEWKIRK: For a citizen, a juror, courthouse employees, that they enter one of three entrances and go through a metal detector. And all baggage, all personal belongings that are in briefcases are examined through an x-ray machine much like at the airports.
KAYE: There are two sides to the courthouse, old and new. For all courtrooms, judges access secure parking underground and a private elevator to their floor. Judge Barnes' courtroom in the old court building has emergency alarm buttons and all the other security measures of the new court building except one.
NEWKIRK: Our chamber doors are wired to be electronically controlled.
KAYE: Judge Barnes had no electronic keypad. The suspect allegedly went through the judge's chambers to get into the courtroom.
DENNIS SCHEIB, ATTORNEY: Bad security. Just terrible, terrible security. And it's been going on for years.
KAYE: Police officer-turned-attorney Dennis Scheib was in the courtroom next to Judge Barnes when the shooting happened. Fulton County Court was one of many around the country to beef up security after the Oklahoma City bombing. Still, on a scale of one to 10, Scheib gives security here a one.
SCHEIB: This defendant, he took a gun, he shoots a deputy, he shoots a judge, he shoots a court reporter, and he goes outside and shoots a deputy sheriff coming -- walking in the building. This should never have happened, but security has just been lax for years.
KAYE: But the head of the Fulton County Commission says, "Judges feel safe," adding, "There will be a thorough review of security." Judge Newkirk says there is always at least one armed sheriff's deputy present during criminal cases. Fulton County deputies are the only law enforcement officers allowed to carry weapons in the courthouse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've always enjoyed having armed deputies in the courtroom with me. KAYE: But should deputies carry guns in the courthouse? After all, that's how police say this suspect got his weapon. And where were deputies when the suspect fled down eight flights of stairs and out the building? Judge Newkirk hopes his friend's death will expose the security flaws and get them fixed fast.
NEWKIRK: It's always something in the back of my mind. You see it happening in other venues around the country. And I'm aware of it. I'm aware of the possibility of something like this happening. This is the worst case scenario.
KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, Atlanta.
HARRIS: Police do know that Nichols confronted "Atlanta Journal- Constitution" reporter Don O'Briant. It happened just moments after Nichols allegedly shot and killed three people and wounded another. Here, O'Briant describes that violent chance encounter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DON O'BRIANT, "ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION": I went to the centennial garage to park, as I usually do a little after 9:00. And an SUV pulled in right beside me. And a tall black guy gets out with no shirt on, and asks for directions to Lenox Square.
I figure he's in town for the basketball tournament, so I started giving him directions. And all of a sudden he pulls a gun and says, "Give me your keys." And I don't give them to him. He says, "Give me your keys or I'll kill you."
I give him the keys. He opens the trunk and says, "Get in the trunk." And I said, "No." And he said, "I'm going to shoot you if you don't get in the trunk."
And so I just start to move away and he hits me wit the gun. And I fall down and then I start scrambling up and get to the Marietta Street to try to find help. And he's not following me, so I figure I'm in the clear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Nichols (sic) was wounded and did require 15 -- I believe it was 15 stitches in the attack.
NGUYEN: All right. We want to give you a sense of how this is playing out here in Atlanta. We have a copy of today's "Atlanta Journal-Constitution," where the front page, the headline, reads, "Killer Eludes Cops, Judge, Two Others Slain." Now, that of course, is the lead story.
As you know, a manhunt is under way right now. Under the banner also there is a companion piece that gives a little bit of background, including the fact that greater security was requested after crude weapons were found in Brian Nichols' shoes. That happened on Wednesday. Of course the shooting happened on Friday, yesterday.
HARRIS: OK. A subhead reports that a judge and two others were gunned down. Photos and brief descriptions of the victims appear farther down on page one. And inside is the first-person account of Don O'Briant, the AJC reporter who was pistol-whipped.
He fell trying to get away, broke his wrist. That has to be reset in surgery. He's expecting to get that taken care of next week.
O'Briant says he's extremely lucky he wasn't killed when he refused to get into the trunk of the car as the gunman demanded. The reporter writes, "I guess it just wasn't my day to die."
NGUYEN: You know, he said kind of as a joke during that press conference yesterday with reporters that, although Nichols asked him to get into the trunk or demanded him to get into the trunk, that he said, "No, I can't get in there. There's too much junk in there." Well, having too much junk in his truck apparently possibly saved his life.
HARRIS: He also said that he thought this was going be a garden variety routine carjacking. And it's odd that we know exactly what he means when he says that, because in most cases the carjacker just wants the car, doesn't want to harm you, necessarily. He'll do whatever is necessary to get the car. But he just thought it would be a routine carjacking where...
NGUYEN: A routine carjacking.
HARRIS: ... Nichols would just take the car. But as it turned out, he pulled a gun and demanded he get into -- get into the trunk. He didn't. He was able to get way. And luckily he's here to tell the story.
NGUYEN: Absolutely. And, of course, this manhunt is under way. We want to give you the latest now on the search for the man suspected of killing a judge, a court reporter and a deputy in Atlanta.
Security camera photos of a man matching the description of Brian Nichols show him strolling out of a parking garage at 9:30 Friday morning. That is about 30 minutes after the courthouse shootings.
Now, later, a wooden security gate in that garage was found broken. But there's nothing linking that damage to Nichols at this time.
Police were dealt a setback, though, when they discovered, 15 hours later, that the Honda Accord Nichols allegedly car jacked never left the garage. So police have no idea of how Nichols escaped the area. Of course, hundreds of police officers are involved in this manhunt, which is a multi-state manhunt and which is under way right now.
HARRIS: OK. We'll take a break and come back with more of our extended coverage of the state's wide manhunt for Brian Nichols right after a quick break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
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