Judges in Atlanta: Security Still Lacking after Multiple-Homicide

Fulton County judge says surveillance cameras still needed, access points still weak


ATLANTA -- Months after a deadly shooting rampage at the Fulton County Courthouse, exasperated judges said Friday that surveillance cameras still haven't been plugged in and faulty doors have yet to be replaced.

The judges are members of a task force charged with improving courthouse security. They and other panel members said they are frustrated with the county, claiming it has been slow to react to the March 11 shootings despite their repeated urgings.

''Here we are months later and we're talking about the same things,'' said Fulton County State Court Judge Penny Brown Reynolds. ''We can't get a definite answer as to whether cameras are working or whether they received our request. There's a breakdown somewhere.''

Calls to county officials and Sheriff Myron Freeman seeking comment were not immediately returned Friday.

Brian Nichols, who was in the courthouse facing rape charges, is accused of overpowering a deputy, grabbing her gun and killing a judge and a court reporter. He also is accused of killing a sheriff's deputy who chased after him and, that night, a federal agent at a home north of downtown.

He was captured the next day after police said he took a woman hostage in an Atlanta suburb.

Since the shooting, dozens of work orders to repair malfunctioning security cameras, busted parking garage gates and faulty doors have been ignored, Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington said at a July task force meeting. Maintenance workers still haven't responded to the panel's requests for an explanation.

The task force also said that the number of officers assigned to the courthouse must be increased by roughly a third to secure the downtown Atlanta building.

DeKalb County Sheriff Thomas Brown, a member of the panel, recommended giving Fulton County Sheriff Myron Freeman more authority to directly hire sheriff's staffers, rather than go through the county's personnel department. Part of the problem, Brown said, is that sheriff's officials must wade through daunting red tape to fill vacancies.

''There is no way to easily fill the positions. That's the way the bureaucracy was designed,'' Brown said.

Ultimately, the task force's recommendations will be in the hands of Freeman, who was besieged by calls for his resignation after the deadly shootings.

(c) 2005 Associated Press