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Courtroom shooting suspect captured

The suspect in the shooting deaths of a Georgia judge and two other people was taken into custody today after a standoff with police.

Brian Nichols, 33, was apprehended north of Atlanta in Gwinnett County.

Brian Nichols

Hundreds of police had fanned out in a search across Georgia and neighboring southeastern states after yesterday’s dramatic 9 a.m. shooting at the Fulton County Courthouse. Atlanta police said the suspect grabbed a gun from a sheriff’s deputy and opened fire in the chambers of Judge Rowland Barnes. The Superior Court judge and a court stenographer were killed on the spot and a sheriff’s deputy was fatally shot outside the courthouse.

Police were investigating the fatal shooting of a U.S. Customs agent found dead several miles north of where the courthouse killings occurred. They were not certain the death of the Customs agent was related to Nichols.

The suspect, 33-year-old Brian Nichols, was arrested at an apartment complex in north Atlanta after police spotted the last vehicle he had allegedly stolen in the wake of Friday’s killings at the downtown Atlanta courthouse.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Nichols yesterday wrested a gun from a deputy, who was escorting him to an eighth-floor courtroom where he was due for a hearing in his rape case. He allegedly shot her in the mouth before bursting into the courtroom and fatally shooting Fulton County Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes and a court reporter, authorities said.

As he fled the building, Nichols allegedly shot and killed another sheriff’s deputy.

Nichols, who has been in jail for the past six months, was wearing a suit, as he had been allowed to change out of his prison garb for his court appearance.

The judge had earlier asked authorities to provide extra security because he thought Nichols could turn violent if convicted. On Thursday, Nichols was found to be hiding two hand-made knives in his shoes.

Nevertheless, he was not wearing leg shackles and was only escorted by one deputy, who removed his handcuffs as she led him to the courtroom.

Nichols had been in jail since August on charges of breaking into his former girlfriend’s apartment, binding her with duct tape and raping her. He was being retried and faced possible life imprisonment, after a first trial ended in a hung jury on Monday.

Barnes, 64, was one of the most senior judges in Atlanta, handling high-profile and controversial cases.