Return to Transcripts main page
CNN BREAKING NEWS
Atlanta Courthouse Shooting Suspect Arrested in Apartment Near Atlanta
Aired March 12, 2005 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: At the top of the hour -- it's 2 o'clock Eastern Time now, and if you're just tuning in, what's being called now as the largest manhunt in Georgia history is over.
If you've been watching CNN for the past 26 hours or so, we've been telling you about just a brutal -- a brutal shooting that took place starting at 9 clock a.m. yesterday, and continued throughout the morning, and then all the way into this morning when another person was found dead. We're talking about Brian Nichols, the man you're seeing right here, today finally being led out of an apartment complex, just a couple of hours ago, after -- what started yesterday as a man going into his rape trial, taking a gun away from a sheriff's deputy that was leading him to that courtroom.
He opened fire on the judge, the court reporter, fled the courthouse, opened fire on a deputy outside of the courthouse, and then has been on the loose ever since. A couple car jackings in the middle of that which led him finally this morning to an apartment complex in Gwinnett County, and that's where he entered an apartment complex -- actually, I'll tell you about this video first.
This was another catch to the story, which got a lot of us here at CNN a little disturbed. And that is, that one of the car jackings took place in our parking lot here at the CNN center, not far from where we all work. Brian Nichols had gone up to an AJC reporter, an "Atlanta Journal-Constitution" reporter, Don O'Briant, and said, Give me your keys; I'm taking your keys or ail kill you. O'Briant handed him the keys, and then Nichols told him to get in the trunk of the car. Well, he refused to do so. Brian Nichols ended up pistol- whipping him, taking off in the green Honda.
Now, we did not see this videotape in our surveillance cameras until much later, because authorities had thought he had fled the building in the green Honda. So for hours and hours and hours we had been talking about this search for this murder suspect in a green Honda; meanwhile, he had left the car there. He had ditched the car in the parking lot, taken off on foot, and later on we found this videotape, or found him on our surveillance cameras, Turner Security did, and that's when a new twist sort of unfolded in this manhunt for Brian Nichols.
So then one thing led to another. This morning we got word that a federal agent, immigration and customs enforcement agent, was found shot dead. His badge taken, his gun taken, his truck taken. And that's when a 911 call was made a few hours later from Gwinnett County. A woman said, I know this is the man. He's in my apartment. I'm not in there. But you've got to respond.
It wasn't long after that that Gwinnett County police, their S.W.A.T. team responded, FBI S.W.A.T. team responded. And Nichols, the man you're seeing here in custody now, being led into the headquarters of the FBI to be questioned, a man wanted for four murders, no confrontation with authorities, no confrontations with police. He waved either a white t-shirt or white piece of cloth and surrendered to police. No gunshots, no gunfire, no confrontation, no negotiations took place. He just gave himself up.
We're told by authorities that he was inside that apartment complex watching TV. He knew what was going on. He knew what was happening. Probably realized, this was the end, and he decided to give up. The woman that he came face to face with in the apartment complex, according to authorities, he didn't know her. It was a stranger-on-stranger incident.
Somehow she got out of the apartment; we don't know if he let her out of the apartment or she escaped from the apartment. But police said she didn't seem panicked. She called 911, said he was in her apartment and the next thing you know he was surrendering to the S.W.A.T. teams.
Now, we've heard a lot from the law enforcement, we've heard a lot from the D.A. and the prosecutor in the case which started to be a rape trial. Now finally, we're able to sit down with Barry Hazen, who was Brian Nichols' attorney, really still is if this rape trial comes back to the forefront, but our guess is that probably it's going to be on the back burner. Now we've got four murder charges here, and you will not be involved in those cases as you told me.
But let's talk a little bit more about Brian Nichols. We were talking about him, his character, what led up to the courtroom incident. There was a fear that he would be a threat.
Tell us about his family. We understand his parents, career diplomats, is that correct?
PHILLIPS: Or is that not true? There was mixed messages about his parents. What can you tell us about his family?
HAZEN: His mother was an IRS agent, retired. His dad was in the restaurant business. He retired. And then they -- she got a job in Tanzania, in East Africa, working for the Tanzanian government in an effort to set up a tax system. She's basically a consultant, and she'll be coming back to the states toward the end of March. But she was -- she wasn't a diplomat so far as I know. He has a brother who lives in Miami. He's from Baltimore, and the majority of his family live in and around the Baltimore, Maryland area.
PHILLIPS: So, let me ask you this: do all his family members know what's going on, and have they been brought up to date, and are they going to all converge here in the Atlanta area, and somehow get involved in this case? HAZEN: I haven't spoken to them. It's hard to know. These last -- it seems like days -- but however many hours this has been, 24, 36 hours has just been a buzz for everybody, and I haven't had a chance to speak with the members of his family, so I really don't know what their intentions are. It's just hard to know.
He only had two people from Baltimore come down for the trial. He really was largely alone, which troubled me. There was no presence in the courtroom in support of him while there was tremendous presence in the courtroom in support of the state's case. He had a cousin and an uncle come down from Baltimore, and that was it. His parents didn't come back home from Tanzania.
PHILLIPS: Any idea why he did what he did? And as detectives have said, it seems like he just snapped. You were saying that in this relationship that he had with this woman, she even said it was -- there was no violence, no physical or verbal problems. And then all of a sudden this happened.
What was going on in his life? You know, was he on drugs? I mean, is there anything you can tell us about his lifestyle that could have led to -- I mean, he could have just hit depression. Do you know anything about what he might have been dealing with or why he would have snapped?
HAZEN: A little bit. He had a very good job. He was working for UPS. He maintained their computer network.
PHILLIPS: He was a computer technician for UPS?
HAZEN: Yes. Learned it on his own. He didn't have any formal training for that.
This was a good job. His employers, his supervisor indicated that he was actually a very good employee. Everybody liked him, and he was reliable and he showed up for work, and he did what he was supposed to do.
He was an athlete. He had a group of friends. He played basketball with a group of friends on a regular basis. By all accounts, he was a likable guy. There was evidence of drug use in the case. Not hard drug use. The evidence in the case was he was a marijuana smoker. Probably a heavy and -- often marijuana smoker. But there wasn't any evidence in the case that he was involved in any other drugs at all. There was one reference to him having been drinking one night, but no history of alcoholism that I'm aware of, at all.
PHILLIPS: Have you talked to his former girlfriend, the one that he was involved with, with the rape trial?
HAZEN: Yes. She was always very forthcoming. I found her to be a very classy person, and as well as all the other members of her family. Often complainants will not speak to you if you represent the other side, but they're wonderful people. They came and they talked to me and we were able to discuss freely what was going on. They knew that I was coming at the case from a different point of view than they were. But they were fine with that and understood that.
And of course, she had a very different take on his behavior. Her attitude was that she was ending the relationship, and he didn't want to accept it, and his way of controlling her, and keeping her in the relationship, was to sexually attack her.
So we talked about Judge Barnes, and that he had warned you, as a defense attorney, that your life could be in danger.
Did you feel that your life was in danger? Did you think Brian Nichols would hurt you?
HAZEN: I was torn there. On the basis of my own experience with him, no, because he had always shown me the utmost respect. I can't remember a client who has been so respectful of me. However, I had to also look at the evidence before me, which was that this man had weapons. So -- against whom he intended to use them, I don't know, but the fact that they were there, and he was apparently sitting next to me, at least one full day with them, not letting on, was disturbing. And then I also had to look at the facts of the case, and the allegation in the case was a series of very violent acts.
And so I had to put that all together. I hoped that I was not in danger. But I can't say that this was not something that I didn't think about often, and my family thought about all the time.
PHILLIPS: No doubt. It's always even harder on the family, taking on that kind of job that you do.
HAZEN: They want me to do something different.
PHILLIPS: Yes, I don't blame -- you know, you might want to think about that, Barry.
Barry Hazen, attorney for Brian Nichols during that rape trial. It's just a shame that the judge warned you about the safety concern. There were plenty of people coming forward, concerned about that, and it's a shame to see how this all unfolded.
But we appreciate your time today. And just giving us a little bit more insight to Brian Nichols, and what it was like representing him, getting to know him, and sort of following this case with us. We really appreciate your time.
HAZEN: Thank you.
PHILLIPS: Thank you.
RUDI BAKHTIAR, CNN ANCHOR: Riveting details there, Kyra. Thank you both.
All right, let's now go to Gary Tuchman. He is en route to City Hall, where at 4 p.m. there will be a press conference held by the Atlanta police. Gary is on his way there. That's where earlier Brian Nichols was taken from the FBI field office, where he was booked to the City Hall East, possibly to a detention facility there.
Gary, can you hear me?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I hear you fine, Rudi.
It was a real dramatic scene at the FBI headquarters in Atlanta. You rarely see it in a journalistic career, that kind of capture where there's so much attention and apprehension. And that's what happened.
After Nichols was captured, he was driven in a 20-minute motorcade to the FBI headquarters in Dekalb County, Georgia, which is about 15 minutes north of the city of Atlanta. When he arrived there, when his motorcade arrived there, and when we arrived there, there were probably 20 or 25 FBI S.W.A.T. team members, ATF S.W.A.T. team members, S.W.A.T. team members from the Fulton County sheriff's department. Many of them in military fatigues, holding rifles and pointing them in the direction of Brian Nichols.
Now, I asked one of the agents after this was all over, were you afraid he was going to get away, with all those people standing there. And he said, well, that's something we're looking out for, but what we're more concerned about is in case there's someone there to help Nichols who shows up with firearms. That's what we're looking for, too.
So, there were helicopters whirring overhead. There were police all over. For about ten minutes the SUV sat there, and then Nichols in his white prison jumpsuit, got out, went inside the building. He was in there for one hour. He was booked and fingerprinted. And it went back in reverse. He went back into the SUV. I can tell you that there wasn't as much security the second time around when he came out. But then he went for the drive to the city of Atlanta, to city hall, where the process will continue.
But it was quite a scene with the helicopters, with the weapons and with all the agents on the scene as they caught a man who had really terrorized a community.
BAKHTIAR: Gary, do you know why he was taken to city hall, and what's expected to happen there?
TUCHMAN: What we're being told by the FBI is that he will remain in federal custody for the time being, but they are not telling us where this man will be spending the night tonight. They want that for security reasons. It will be undisclosed.
I asked if it would be a federal holding facility. They said most likely not. It will likely be a state or local under their auspices, but still, he'll be held in federal custody for now.
BAKHTIAR: All right. Gary Tuchman, standing by right now. You're on your way to city hall right now. Stay with us. When you get there, there's a presser at 4 p.m. by Atlanta police to talk about all this, so we'll be getting back to you.
Let's go now to Drew Griffin who is standing by in Buckhead. Now, that's where the immigrations agent was found, the body of the immigration agent. Evidently, Brian Nichols had somehow earlier come in contact with this immigration agent, killed him, got the car, got his I.D. and a weapon and fled to Gwinnett County.
Drew, can you hear me?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I can.
BAKHTIAR: What's the latest there?
GRIFFIN: The body of 40-year-old David Wilhelm, the ice agent, the customs officer, left this scene about a half an hour ago, taken away after the medical examiner conducted an investigation on the crime scene.
We now know that it appears David Wilhelm was a random target, and apparently wasn't targeted because of his customs official status. He was indeed building a home down on this road, a home under construction, a John Willis (ph) home.
And about 15 minutes ago, a woman pulled up, just in shock, to say she had been working with David Wilhelm and his wife on selecting some tiles for this home. She told us that Mr. Wilhelm liked to work on his home. He was a craftsman. He did some tile work and some finish work on the home that he was building for he and his wife. They were moving here and excited about moving here from North Carolina. And she just could not believe that this all took place sometime between 9:30 yesterday and this morning when Mr. Wilhelm's body was found.
Of course, police have found Mr. Wilhelm's badge, his gun and his truck at the arrest scene of Mr. Nichols, which is the connection between these two crime scenes -- Rudi.
BAKHTIAR: And Drew, that area in Buckhead is a pretty upscale neighborhood area. Have you been able to talk to people who live in that area? What's their response been?
GRIFFIN: Yes, you know, it is an upscale area. But this is not the quiet Buckhead with the big homes and the big lawns. This is a -- right off of a busy, busy Lenox drive, just a couple of blocks down from the mall. A lot of condos, a lot of apartments, a lot of traffic, and quite frankly, there has been some crime over the years here, just because of the busy-ness of it. Cantor Road (ph), where the body was found, is right off of Lenox, about a half a block down the hill, and that is where a group of four or five homes are being built, and that's where the body was found.
The neighbors, though, as you can imagine, are simply in shock given the events that unfolded and given the fact that this person was accused of these -- or these killings in downtown L.A. about eight miles from here was indeed here with them and had picked a target as well, according to what we're putting together.
BAKHTIAR: Drew, ever since yesterday, we've been following the trail of Nichols from the courthouse to the parking lot, then to Buckhead.
If you will, paint us a picture of where you are exactly in reference to the courthouse, and again, how he possibly could have gotten there, and the distances involved.
GRIFFIN: Yes, it is about eight miles north. If anybody's been to Atlanta, you know that downtown and Buckhead are connected basically by Peach Tree Street, by the 485 freeway, and also by the M.A.R.T.A., the rapid transit system that has a stop at the Lenox Mall, just about three blocks from where I'm sitting right now.
So it would be very convenient and easy for Brian Nichols to jump onto a M.A.R.T.A. train and be here within 20 minutes to a half an hour. Or he could take a bus here. Or if he had the availability of a car, which we don't know yet when he left that parking garage, he could certainly get here in short order. So it is very easily connected in many ways for people with or without their own means of transportation.
BAKHTIAR: And earlier on yesterday, during the day, he had actually -- Nichols had actually run into an AJC reporter, his name was Don O'Briant, and had taken his car and asked him to get in the trunk. He refused. Nichols pistol-whipped him. But there was also talk about asking directions. What was that about?
GRIFFIN: Yes, he actually asked directions, that was his introductory line, asking how to get to Lenox. I'm not quite sure if it was how to get to Lenox Mall, but in Atlanta, they mean one and the same thing.
And again, Rudi, from that parking garage, now we know he did not leave in that car, but if he walked out of the garage, he was across the street from the M.A.R.T.A. station, and that M.A.R.T.A. station, you could just jump over the turnstile and hop on a train and be here very quickly.
So if Lenox Mall was his destination, the M.A.R.T.A. offered a very convenient way to get here.
BAKHTIAR: All right.
Drew Griffin in Buckhead, thank you very much for your contribution.
We want to remind everybody to watch Larry King tonight for a special edition of "LARRY KING" on the suspect being captured today. That is at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
And also, at 4:00, there is a presser, Atlanta police department holding a press conference, and we'll be bringing you that live. We're going to take a short break. We'll be bringing you more right after a few words.
BAKHTIAR: Welcome back, everyone.
Recapping today's capture of Atlanta courthouse shooting suspect Brian Nichols: the 33-year-old Nichols is now in federal custody after he surrendered to police just a short time ago. Nichols was captured just hours ago at an apartment complex northeast of Atlanta.
He's accused of killing a judge, a court reporter and a deputy sheriff in yesterday's shooting spree in the downtown part of Atlanta. And a short time before Nichols was captured, a U.S. immigration and customs enforcement agent was also found shot dead in Atlanta. Authorities are still trying to determine whether Nichols is tied to that case as well.
PHILLIPS: Well, authorities say that Brian Nichols grabbed a deputy's gun and killed two people inside Atlanta's Fulton County courthouse.
One was Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes. Then a sheriff's deputy, Sergeant Hoyt Teasley, was later killed outside the courthouse when he ran off the courthouse when he ran after Nichols. Another deputy, Cynthia Hall, was shot while leading Nichols to 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.
Well, the courthouse shootings were very personal, and those killed are being remembered by many people today.
One of the victims, Judge Barnes, was considered a giant in the legal community, who sought fairness in 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.
PHILLIPS: Once again, that was Paula Zahn reporting.
We want to take you back out again to Gwinnett County for these live pictures. Yes, you'll remember Gwinnett County, because that's where S.W.A.T. officers arrested Brian Nichols, the man suspected of four murders now, the a largest manhunt in Georgia history.
A different story happening in Gwinnett County. We just got these pictures in, live pictures, a number of houses on fire in a subdivision here. Firefighters working the scene diligently.
We don't know how the fire started, and what's the status of -- how much it is under control. But it looks like they've already put out two of the house fires. It looks like about three or four, still on fire. But firefighters on the scene.
We'll keep you updated on this rolling story from WAGA on the fires in Gwinnett County. We're going to take a quick break. More special coverage right after this.
BAKHTIAR: Welcome back, everyone.
All day we've been covering live for you the fate of Brian Nichols. Yesterday he started a rampage, a shooting spree, that has ended up today now in various places.
Let's go to Gwinnett County, where Tony Harris is standing by. Just moments ago they had a press conference there.
Tony, what can you tell us?
TONY HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rudi, we're just sort of reconstructing the last few hours for Brian Nichols. As you mentioned, we are in Duluth. That's if Gwinnett County, Georgia. We're about three miles away from the Bridgewater apartment complex where Brian Nichols actually surrendered to police and the S.W.A.T. team from Gwinnett County. We're standing now in front of the Gwinnett County police department headquarters, and I want to introduce you to a man who was the first to respond to the call, the 911 call, from the woman who, I think in the days ahead, is going to be thought of as a hero -- her actions on this day were certainly heroic.
This is Gwinnett County police officer Anthony Bassett. And officer, let me first ask you, the call comes in at 9:50 this morning is my understanding correct?
ANTHONY BASSETT, GWINETT COUNTY POLICE OFFICE: Yes.
HARRIS: From this woman. And tell us what she says to dispatch and the information that you get on that call initially.
BASSETT: Well, working an accident about two apartment complexes down. I received a call from our dispatch that Mr. Nichols was held up in an apartment at Ridgewater Apartments. The female caller advised that she was at the leasing office and this Brian Nichols was held up in her apartment.
HARRIS: OK. So she had made her way -- and is it correct that we don't know whether he allowed her to leave or whether she escaped at this point? But she had found a way to get out of the apartment, and she was at the leasing office when you arrived?
HARRIS: Now, one of the key elements of what you had to determine was the credibility of the call. Tell me how you went about doing that. What she was able to tell you that informed you that this was a credible call, and that you needed to call and arrange for backup and support.
BASSETT: Under this circumstances of what happened yesterday, we were taking all calls seriously. When I arrived on the scene, pretty much I was just there to contain the scene, get a nice perimeter, and to my supervisor -- until my supervisor arrived. And she was interviewed by other police officers. And we didn't want to take anything for granted that he wasn't there. Obviously, he's a violent felon.
BASSETT: And we just wanted to keep the community safe. So we contained that area.
HARRIS: And let's establish where you were and your state of mind at the time. You were working something totally unrelated. You were working an accident at the time, correct?
BASSETT: That's correct.
HARRIS: Something totally unrelated. The last thing you expected probably was to get this call, correct?
BASSETT: That -- I didn't expect it. But the probability of it happening, it could have been certain, you know. We're in the metro Atlanta area, and the suspect wasn't apprehended at this time. We had went over it in roll call you know, you know, to use caution, because of what happened yesterday. So we didn't want to be routine about any of the calls that were received on it today.
HARRIS: Officer Bassett, describe for me, you get this call. You understand what this man is going to be charged with. He's going to be charged with four murders. This is a man who brazenly shot up the Fulton County Courthouse. This is a man who escaped the courthouse. Who is running through the streets of Atlanta, turns and fires on a Fulton County sheriff's deputy. This is what's going to be alleged in the charges to come. Give me a sense of your state of mind when you get the call that you're being asked to respond to a call, to a location where Nichols is believed to be holed up.
BASSETT: State of mind was definitely being safe. I wanted my fellow officers to be safe. And to use as much caution in this. Definitely a high alert, definitely, you know, adrenaline rush. You just want to remain calm in these situations, that you don't make mistakes that may injure other officers.
HARRIS: OK, the call comes in at 9:50. You do the initial work on the case and then on the S.W.A.T comes in. You get the backup and support that you need. What time was he -- did he finally surrender?
BASSETT: About --
HARRIS: About 11:20 or so?
BASSETT: Shortly after 11:00 a.m.
HARRIS: Describe what you saw. Did he hold this towel, this t- shirt? Was he waving it in the window? What did he do?
BASSETT: The S.W.A.T. team and the S.W.A.T. commander could advise you on that.
BASSETT: My understanding, it wasn't a violent surrender. It was a peaceful surrender, with the show of force and the S.W.A.T. team did an excellent job.
HARRIS: But he held up something white, the universal sign of surrender.
BASSETT: That's my understanding that is what he did.
HARRIS: As we try to reconstruct these last hours, I'm curious if the woman who made the call to 911, did she give you any indication of those last hours, for example, did he tie her up? Was he threatening to her? Did he eat? Did he sleep?
BASSETT: I'm not certain on his last few hours. Just with speaking to her, she appeared to be very tired. It appears that he was with her some time, and I believe that he was tired and ready to surrender.
HARRIS: The story that I understand from the press conference a little earlier this afternoon was that this was a case where Nichols forced -- was he already in the apartment or did he force his way into the apartment when she returned to the apartment?
BASSETT: It's my understanding that he met her outside the apartment and actually gained access with her through the front door of her apartment.
HARRIS: What do you think of this woman? What do you think of her actions? What do you think of the way she handled herself?
BASSETTT: She did a tremendous job. She gave us good information. Obviously it's a good day when you can apprehend a violent felon, you know, alleged, for the things that he did. And without any additional people getting hurt, including herself.
HARRIS: Officer Bassett thank you very much.
BASSETT: Thank you.
HARRIS: Great job. Thank you. And Rudi, there you have it. We're going to continue to stay here in Duluth and try to find out as much as we can, a, about this woman who, as I mentioned just a moment ago, I think in the days to come, will be considered a hero. She was called a champ by the Gwinnett County police chief today for her actions and the way she handled herself. Let's be clear about this, she was one- on-one with Brian Nichols for a number of hours. We don't know how long. But she was with Brian Nichols in her apartment by herself with him, a fully armed, extremely dangerous Brian Nichols for a number of hours. And she managed to talk her way out of that apartment building to get to the leasing office, and to make the 911 call that has brought this all to a peaceful end.
RUDI BAKHTIAR, CNN ANCHOR, CNN SATURDAY: Unbelievable, the clarity of mind she showed, Tony. Thank you, Tony Harris, with the amazing details being released now of one of the biggest manhunts in Georgia's history. We've all been on pins and needles since yesterday when this all unfolded, and we've been having live coverage throughout until he was captured about a few hours ago in Atlanta. We'll have more for you.
We're going to take a short break right now we will be right back.
BAKHTIAR: As you know, courthouse shooting suspect Brian Nichols is now in federal custody. Nichols surrendered to police in a Atlanta suburb this morning actually in Gwinnett County. He's now also a suspect in the shooting death of an immigration and customs enforcement agent. That's why he's in federal custody. In addition to several shootings Friday morning in downtown Atlanta. The courthouse shootings raise obvious questions about security. CNN's Randi Kaye examines that issue.
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.
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 in and the tightest. I'm not saying we coast do a better job. But I think it's a balancing act.
KAYE: 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, 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 in 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. 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 1 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 he shoots a deputy sheriff walking in the building. This should never have happened. Security has 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.
NEWKIRK: 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.
BAKHTIAR: As we just showed you, the Atlanta courtroom shootings have dramatically demonstrated the need for improving security in courtrooms all around the country. Judges, lawyers, and law enforcement personnel say that security is sometimes affected by inadequate budgets. Joining us now, two attorneys who have worked in many different courtrooms. Criminal defense attorney Richard Herman is in New York and civil rights attorney and law professor Avery Friedman is in Cleveland, Ohio. Thank you both for joining us gentleman.
AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Sure Rudi.
BAKHTIAR: Let's talk about courtroom security. What happened yesterday, could that happen in any courtroom in America?
RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, you know, in federal courts, the security is much more secure than in the state courts. At least that's my experience. What happened in Fulton County, to me, is absolutely beyond belief. I mean, I was watching CNN the last hour, and I heard Nichols' attorney tell you that his client was caught the day before with metal contraband in both of his feet, which could have been used as weapons, and that Judge Barnes knew this and spoke to the attorneys about this.
And the next day he was allowed Nichols to enter the court without being shackled by a 5'3" female deputy when this man's on trial for violent crimes. To me, it is -- it's unbelievable scenario that just happened here.
BAKHTIAR: Not only that, but the judge also is said to have thought that he might pose a threat sometime in the future. Avery, let's go to you. Is this something that you're familiar with, when you walk into a courtroom? Do you feel comfortable, or do you feel safe?
FRIEDMAN: Well, practically speaking, my work is done in federal courtrooms. And Richard is actually right, the federal court judges, district court judges have special protection. There's a section of the U.S. Marshal's office, CSO's, court security officers who are trained. And the failure here, in my judgment, was the transfer of the prisoner. The court officials knew of the violent propensities. And apparently in Fulton County, the system that we utilize in federal courts around the country wasn't there.
I also agree with Judge Barnes' colleague that this really is the worst scenario. You can't say, well, this happened, and therefore, we have to restructure all courtrooms. In state courts, each jurisdiction has to deal with it. But I think there's also argument made by many of these county commissioners, we don't have adequate money to protect our judicial officers. And I think when it gets right down to it, that's going to be a very important area of exploration, when we really find out what happened here.
BAKHTIAR: Money being a very big issue. Go ahead.
HERMAN: I'm just saying in this case, this Nichols is a 6'2", 225-pound former college linebacker who's charged with a violent crime, who's been found the day before with almost metal shanks in both of his shoes. And to allow him to walk escorted with a deputy, with a loaded firearm --
BAKHTIAR: Yes, let's talk about that. Is that a problem, having deputies with loaded firearms?
FRIEDMAN: I think that's a legitimate concern. And again, you want deputies there to serve a purpose. There are no armed guards as a general rule, for example, in federal courtrooms, because of the process of the way prisoners are secured, and the way prisoners are transferred. The difficulty is that each court has to make up its own procedure.
I, frankly, think an armed deputy in a courtroom is inappropriate when you build in a system to make sure that prisoners are transferred securely. And I think the last thing you should see is an armed guard in a federal courtroom. Because there's a process which should precede it. Richard may disagree with that. But I don't think it's appropriate.
HERMNA: Avery, the courtrooms that I've been in, believe me you would be comfortable that there would be armed guards there with some of these defendants.
BAKHTIAR: Richard, you're a criminal defense attorney. How would you defend this guy?
HERMAN: How would I defend him? To be very frank, to be very honest with you, I couldn't defend him. I really couldn't. I have an obligation, I have the ability to select the clients I like to represent. I couldn't represent this guy. I don't -- there's no defense to him. He just snapped. I don't know what it is that made him act like this. It's absolute insanity. And this guy's going to burn. I don't care --
FRIEDMAN: But in response to the question, Rudi, the fact is, he's entitled to legal counsel. He may not be entitled to Richard, but he's entitled to counsel. We have lost four people who devote themselves to justice. A judicial officer, a federal immigration and customs enforcement officer. Whoever represents Brian Nichols is going to have an extremely hard time in asserting the sort of defenses to secure his release. It's not going to happen.
This is going to be a tough case. And you know what, honestly, there's so many more facts that still remain to be uncovered. The part alone between the confrontation, between Nichols and the federal officer, if Nichols knew that this individual was a federal officer, Congress has actually carved out one of the very few times where the death penalty is available under federal law. So, again, we've got a long way to go to find out what all the facts are.
BAKHTIAR: Very good point, Avery. Richard, I'm going to let you have the last word. Do you think this is a pretty cut and tried case?
HERMAN: It's open and shut. I apologize for jumping the gun on this without the investigation unfolding. We really should sit back, let the investigation unfold, and when we get all the facts, if they are as we've just elicited today, Fulton County's in big trouble.
BAKHTIAR: All right. Criminal defense attorney Richard Herman and civil rights and law professor Avery Friedman thank you both for joining us with your insights.
FRIEDMAN: Thank you.
HERMAN: See you soon.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I want to remind you of two live events that we're waiting for. 4:00 p.m., Atlanta police department is expected to come out and hold a news conference on the arrest finally of Brian Nichols after 26-hour manhunt. We are going to take that live. And at about 3:45, we're going to start our special coverage leading up to that news conference.
Also tonight Larry King in the house tonight, special edition at 9:00 p.m. Tonight on the capture of Brian Nichols. And more on the courthouse shooting. We're going to take a quick break we will be right back.
BAKHTIAR: The Atlanta Courthouse shooting suspect Brian Nichols is in FBI custody. Nichols was arrested at a suburban Atlanta apartment about three hours ago. Outside of that home, a pickup truck that belonged to a federal agent who was found shot and killed earlier today in Atlanta. Nichols was on the run after he allegedly shot and killed three people at the Fulton County courthouse in Atlanta yesterday.
He was on trial for rape when he allegedly grabbed a deputy's gun and opened fire.
PHILLIPS: More now on the man arrested today. Brian Nichols spent many of his childhood years in Baltimore. Friends remember him as a nice guy from a solid family. Former college football player also. CNN's Kathleen Koch joins us live from Baltimore. She's had a chance to talk with folks that knew him well. Hi Kathleen.
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Kyra. Well shock and relief are the emotions that friends and family in this northeast Baltimore neighborhood are feeling today. As you said, Brian Nichols did grow up here in this neighborhood, it is called Waverly. He lived in this home behind me on Windemere Street until 1990. When you ask people about the Brian Nichols they knew as a boy they use words like gentle, kind very determined, very well educated. Very funny.
They say that he attended one of the best schools around here a private catholic school. Cardinal Gibbons High School. While there, he played football on the high school football team. Also later was on the football team at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania. People we talked to who played football with him one in particular who played with him on the high school team, a friend named Charles Franklin, said that while he was aggressive on the field, he was never aggressive in person.
CHARLES FRANKLIN: The Brian that we know was very funny, like the big comedian in the neighborhood. Very ambitious and self- determined individual. Highly educated. And also he has a background, like we both do, in the martial arts to a degree.
KOCH: Franklin said when it came to the martial arts, again, that Nichols never used them for fighting, and again, that he was someone who everyone really loved to be around. Very, very popular person. Now, Nichols' family members have extended their condolences to the families of those killed in Atlanta. Atlanta authorities have notified Baltimore police officials, police officials had been notified them to be on the lookout for Nichols. But the people who we spoke with here, family members, relatives, friends, neighbors said that they really weren't expecting him to turn up here.
They weren't worried for their own safety or the safety of anyone in this area. They said that Nichols really hadn't spent much time here, again, the friend we interviewed said he hadn't seen him in about six years. And that things were going fine in his life, that he didn't see any sign of what happened yesterday, no warning whatsoever.
PHILLIPS: All right Kathleen Koch live there from Baltimore, Maryland. Thank you so much. We want to remind you about the special coverage that starts at 3:45, leading up to the 4:00 p.m. Press conference with the Atlanta police department.
BAKHTIAR: That's right. That is currently where he is being held, Nichols is being held over there. So we're also going to have Larry King at 9:00, coming up with his special tonight.
PHILLIPS: Calling in the big guns tonight.
BAKHTIAR: They sure have. You know if Larry King's coming in, definitely, it's a big deal.
PHILLIPS: We are going to take a quick break, more right after this.