Saturday, March 12, 2005

Edited by Victor A. Cuvo

TRAGEDY IN ATLANTA ENDS IN CAPTURE

News from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Feds file firearms charge against Nichols

U.S. Attorney David Nahmias said that a federal criminal complaint was filed against Brian Nichols earlier today charging him with possessing a firearm while being under indictment.

This is little more than a “holding charge,” Nahmias said, to ensure Nichols’ detention while federal and state authorities decide what charges to bring next.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said Nichols also is expected to make his first court appearance during the early week. Howard also said he wanted to resolve the rape trial Nichols is accused of disrupting on Friday by fatally shooting trial judge Rowland Barnes, his courtroom stenographer Julie Brandau and deputy Hoyt Teasley.

Howard added that he expects to file formal charges against Nichols within the next 30 days, after allowing Atlanta police and other law enforcement agencies to complete their investigations.

Nahmias said his office would prosecute Nichols for the killing of David Wilhelm, assistant special agent in charge of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Atlanta. But he said Howard would take the lead in charging decisions.

“We’re examining all potential charges,” Nahmias said. “We’re less than 36 hours into this event. We’re going to do this in a very careful and cautious way.”

Kenneth Smith, special agent of ICE, called Wilhelm’s death “a tragic loss for the entire law enforcement community.” Wilhelm, whose brother Patrick also is an ICE special agent in Atlanta, was “an exemplary officer, a trusted colleague and a true friend,” said Smith, struggling to maintain his composure.

Permalink | Categories: Courthouse shooting

Neighbors react to Barnes’ death

A Fulton County Sheriff’s deputy sat in his patrol car in the driveway of the College Park home of Judge Rowland Barnes. Family members declined to talk about Barnes or the news of Brian Nichols’ capture.

Barnes and his wife Claudia live in the Historic College Park area, about a mile from downtown College Park in south Fulton County.

Neighbors say they are relieved that Nichols is no longer at large.

“I’m glad he’s caught,” said 90-year-old Sallie Richey, who lives across Lyle Road from the Barnes home on Flowers Drive. Richey has lived on the block for 47 years, and knew Barnes for at least 35 years.

“I didn’t know anyone in this neighborhood who didn’t like him,” she said.

Across the street, Stephen Howard, 14, bounced a basketball in the street on a warm March Saturday afternoon. He said Barnes was kind to him.

“He always said ‘hey’ when he walked past,” Howard said. “He always worked in the yard with his wife.”

Wendy DeJong just moved onto Flowers Drive last summer, and she didn’t yet get to meet Barnes. But she was still shaken by his killing.

“A judge?” said DeJong, 36, a mechanic for Delta Air Lines. “A judge is a symbol of law and order and civility. It’s just the most heinous crime.”

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Carpenters find agent’s body

The break that ultimately led authorities to Brian G. Nichols came Saturday morning when two carpenters showed up for work.

Brothers Felix and Martin Salazar, carpenters from Mexico, reported to work about 8 a.m. on a house being built by David G. Wilhelm, a high-ranking investigator with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Atlanta. Martin Salazar, 41, said in an interview that he and his brother saw a house door open and caught sight of Wilhelm’s body lying on the floor about eight feet away.

He said he and his brother called out “David! David!” but got no answer. He said Wilhelm lay on his back with his eyes open, hands resting on his chest. Salazar said they left without entering the house and called a contractor and talked with neighbors until police arrived. He said he and his brother noticed a small amount of blood in the garage but did not get close enough to Wilhelm’s body to have an idea about how he died.

Several weeks ago, when Wilhelm first met the Salazar brothers and learned they were from Mexico, he told them about a church mission trip he had taken to that country, Salazar said.

“He seemed like a good guy,” he said.

Salazar said he and his brother did not see Wilhelm’s pickup at the house, which apparently triggered a search by authorities. That pickup, a blue 1994 Chevrolet pickup truck, later turned up at the Gwinnett County apartments where police captured Nichols.

Salazar said he last saw Wilhelm alive about 5 p.m. Friday, when the two men chatted at the house Wilhelm was building. He said Wilhelm talked about the killings Friday of a judge, court reporter and sheriff’s deputy in downtown Atlanta.

“He said ‘Did you hear what happened? Somebody killed a judge and some other people,’” Salazar said in Spanish. “He was sad. He told us to be careful. He said there are a lot of crazy people out there.”

Permalink | Categories: Courthouse shooting

Judge’s neighbors relieved suspect in custody

A Fulton County Sheriff’s deputy sat in his patrol car in the driveway of the College Park home of Judge Rowland Barnes. Family members declined to talk about Barnes or the news of Brian Nichols’ capture.

Barnes and his wife, Claudia, live in the Historic College Park area, about a mile from downtown College Park in south Fulton County.

Neighbors say they are relieved that Nichols is no longer at large.

“I’m glad he’s caught,” said 90-year-old Sallie Richey, who lives across Lyle Road from the Barnes home on Flowers Drive. Richey has lived on the block for 47 years, and knew Barnes for at least 35 years.

“I didn’t know anyone in this neighborhood who didn’t like him,” she said.

Across the street, Stephen Howard, 14, bounced a basketball in the street on a warm March Saturday afternoon. He said Barnes was kind to him.

“He always said ‘hey’ when he walked past,” Howard said. “He always worked in the yard with his wife.”

Wendy DeJong moved to Flowers Drive last summer, and she didn’t yet get to meet Barnes. But she was still shaken by his death.

“A judge?” said DeJong, 36, a mechanic for Delta Air Lines. “A judge is a symbol of law and order and civility. It’s just the most heinous crime.”

Permalink | Categories: Courthouse shooting

Defender says access to Nichols denied

Chris Adams, head of the office of the Georgia Capital Defender, tried unsuccessfully to visit Brian Nichols this afternoon at police headquarters and advise him of his rights.

“We were denied access to see our client,” said Adams, whose office represents indigent defendants facing state death-penalty charges. “We have a statutory mandate to represent people facing the the death penalty in Georgia. Mr. Nichols is facing the death penalty in Georgia.”

Nichols, who was arrested after turning himself over to authorities, has yet to appear before a judge.

Atlanta criminal defense attorney Dwight Thomas expressed certainty that prosecutors — both federal and state — will seek the death penalty against Nichols. The only question is where Nichols will be tried first, in Fulton County Superior Court or in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, he said.

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Details of the capture

Charlie Waters, Gwinnett County Police chief, held a press conference Saturday afternoon providing details of the capture of Brian Nichols Saturday morning at Bridgewater Apartments.

Waters said Nichols was in the apartment of a woman whom he did not know, a situation that he described as “stranger on stranger.” Nichols is believed to have come to the apartment randomly sometime during the night after federal agents say he killed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent David Wilhelm in a house in Buckhead. Wilhelm’s truck was found parked in the Bridgewater Apartments complex.

Waters said the woman, whom he did not identify, somehow escaped her apartment this morning and called 911 at about 9:50 a.m. She told dispatchers that Nichols was in her apartment. Gwinnett police, FBI agents and others responded to the scene and surrounded the apartment. Waters said Nichols gave up peacefully, waving a T-shirt to let police know he wanted to surrender. Waters said Nichols was watching television in the apartment, and saw the police swarming the area. Waters said they recovered weapons in the apartment.

Permalink | Categories: Courthouse shooting

Suspect taken to City Hall East

At about 1:20 p.m., Brian Nichols was driven from FBI headquarters in DeKalb County to Atlanta City Hall East, where Atlanta police have their homicide unit. He was booked for the murders of Judge Rowland Barnes, Deputy Hoyt Teasley and court reporter Julia Ann Brandau, as well as other charges. He was expected to remain in federal custody after the booking.

Nichols was taken into custody about 11:30 a.m. at an apartment complex in Gwinnett County. He was arrested without incident by Gwinnett County S.W.A.T. officers. He was handcuffed and driven under heavy guard to FBI regional headquarters, on Clairmont Road in DeKalb County, where he was charged with the murder of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent David Wilhelm, who was found shot to death in a house in Buckhead Saturday morning. Wilhelm’s blue pickup truck apparently was stolen by Nichols, who then drove it to Gwinnett.

Permalink | Categories: Courthouse shooting

Almeta Kilgo’s first-person account

Almeta Kilgo, 37, is a computer programmer for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution whose car was stolen by a man believed to be Brian Nichols on Friday morning. Kilgo left her Decatur home about 8:45, listening to gospel CDs as she drove to work in her 2004 silver gray Mercury Sable. Here is her account:

I was coming down Marietta Street about 9:15 to turn onto Cone Street. I probably saw the wrecker — a white tow truck — behind me, but didn’t pay any attention. I turned into the Cone Street Garage. Nobody was checking IDs on the cars.

I went up to the fourth level. A few people had pulled in before me.

I was backing into my parking place when I noticed the tow truck up there on the fourth level. It was confusing. Was I going to get a ticket for something? Was he towing somebody? Was he getting ready to ask directions?

He pulled into a parking place across from me and jumped out of the tow truck as I was opening the car door. He came over, put a gun to my head, and told me to “move over.”

I just looked at him. I blanked out. This was crazy.

He said, “Hurry up, hurry up, get over.”

My car has a stick in the middle. I had to climb over that. I was still dazed. As I was climbing over, my mind was saying, “This is for real.”

I was trying to figure out how to get out.

I climbed over to the passenger side and he got in on the driver’s side. He said, “You better not open that door.”

He put my car in drive, and proceeded to go back down the ramp. I was in the car with him. He got down to the third level, but he didn’t turn to go on down the ramp. He went straight.

He said, “How do you get out of here? How do you get out of here?”

He had to stop. There was nowhere to go.

He said, “I tell you what — you get out and get in the trunk.”

He kept saying, “Get in the trunk.”

He popped my trunk.

I started to run, screaming at the top of my lungs.

Unfortunately, I fell. I was still screaming.

He came up, put a gun to my head, and said, “Shut up. Shut up.” He had the gun right in my face.

I was still screaming.

He kept saying, “Shut up.” I kept screaming.

At that point, I might as well. If I was going to go out, I was going out screaming.

For some reason, he turned around and went back to my car. I went over toward the elevator into the corner screaming.

It took a long time for anybody to get out of car and see what was wrong with me.

I saw him come back around the corner in my car with the trunk lid still up. If I had been thinking, maybe I could have set off the alarm. I was too upset. He came on around, and somehow got out of the garage. The trunk was wide open. Eventually a lady came to see about me, and a man came. I was totally out of it.

I said, “That guy in the tow truck just took my car. He put a gun to my head and took my car. Didn’t y’all see?”

The parking attendants were the last people to show up.

I think he took my car over to Centennial and carjacked Don (O’Briant, an AJC reporter whose green Honda Civic was the subject of police bulletins Friday). The manager of the parking garage came. They called police. We went down to the little office.

I kept looking at the clock. I had a 9:30 meeting. I was trying to get into work before the meeting.

It wasn’t too long before the police came and started asking me what happened. They went up to see the tow truck.

And it wasn’t long after that, Don came walking over. They were talking to me and he walked in. He was covered with blood. We knew then that the guy had ditched my car and took his.

I was sitting there in the office of the Cone Street Garage. The police, reporters, everybody was swarming around. I heard somebody say, “He’s killed two people down at the courthouse.”

That just tore me up.

Since this was a homicide investigation, a homicide detective came and talked to me and tried to get information about my car. They took me down to the police station on Ponce de Leon so they could get a formal written statement from me.

I guess I was down there until about 1 or 1:30.

A good friend of mine came to get me. I went over to some relatives’ house for awhile. Got home about six.

Permalink | Categories: Courthouse shooting

Tow truck driver tells of dramatic confrontation

Deronta Franklin, a tow-truck driver, was waiting on a dispatch at Peachtree and Wall streets when he saw a dark SUV round the corner and hit the curb a few minutes after 9 a.m. The driver pulled into a parking deck behind him, and waited.

Seconds later, two police cars followed and stopped at the corner. One was an Atlanta police car and the other was Fulton County sheriff’s car, Franklin said. He showed them where the suspect was hiding.

“I pointed directly into the parking deck and they went in,” said Franklin, 37.

As the police cars entered the parking deck, the suspect burst through the mechanical arm and sped in.

“Three more officers [in vehicles] came up and said ‘Which way did he go?’ I told them ‘He went right up in there.’”

Franklin said the next thing he knew, the SUV driver was at his window pointing a gun at him.

In a calm voice, the gunman said “Get out of the truck.”

“You can have the truck,” Franklin said.

Franklin said the gunman was not visibly upset or sweating. He wore a turquoise green or blue suede jogging suit. Franklin watched as the man got in the tow truck and sped north on Peachtree Street, then took a left turn in the wrong direction on Walton Street, a one-way street near Five Points.

After hearing about the wake of death the gunman left, Franklin said “I’m surprised he didn’t shoot me then. I was just fortunate.”

A Tow Atlanta Inc. CEO Page Porter said the company’s truck was found at 98 Cone St.

Permalink | Categories: Courthouse shooting

Visitors bureau: Isolated incident

Operators of downtown Atlanta’s hotels and attractions put extra security personnel and procedures in place after Friday morning’s shootings at the Fulton County courthouse.

“We understand, as an industry, that we entertain millions of people a year, and the perception of danger in a city is a perception that might hurt the city,” said Bill Howard, spokesman for the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau. “There are many visitors in town for the SEC [basketball] championships this weekend. We need to make sure people remain safe and are able to move around the city. And we don’t want them to feel like there’s a lockdown going on.”

For the most part, visitors don’t seem to be judging Atlanta harshly for this one violent event, Howard said. He hopes other potential visitors, many of whom likely watched reports of the shooting on national news networks, will be similarly understanding.

“This was a random act by a person who is pretty desperate,” Howard said.

“People understand that unfortunately, those things can occur and can occur anywhere. I don’t think they’ll judge Atlanta particularly harshly.”

Permalink | Categories: Courthouse shooting


Suspected rapist allegedly killed senior U.S. customs agent, judge, 2 others





From ajc.com:

Barry Hazen, Nichols' attorney, described his client, a former UPS worker and dropout from Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, as "very laid-back, very easygoing, very polite."

Hazen, however, thought Nichols was going to prison on felony charges that he raped and held hostage a former girlfriend. It was Nichols' second time around on the charges: a trial ended last week with a hung jury.

"I didn't think the jury was going to do anything but convict," Hazen said. "I was very surprised. This time around, I thought he had no chance."




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Rice Does Not Rule Out Prez Run 2008; 'Mildly Pro-choice' Stance On Abortion...

By Bill Sammon
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Published March 12, 2005


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday pointedly declined to rule out running for president in 2008, and gave her most detailed explanation of a "mildly pro-choice" stance on abortion.
In an interview with editors and reporters in the office of the editor in chief at The Washington Times, she said she would not want the government "forcing its views" on abortion.
She seemed bemused by speculation that a Rice candidacy could set up an unprecedented all-woman matchup with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, who is widely expected to seek the presidency.
"I never wanted to run for anything -- I don't think I even ran for class anything when I was in school," she said. "I'm going to try to be a really good secretary of state; I'm going to work really hard at it.
"I have enormous respect for people who do run for office. It's really hard for me to imagine myself in that role."
She was then pressed on whether she would rule out a White House bid by reprising Gen. William T. Sherman's 1884 declaration: "If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve."
"Well, that's not fair," she protested with a chuckle. "The last thing I can -- I really can't imagine it."
Several Republicans have floated the idea of a Rice candidacy to counter Mrs. Clinton's prospects, especially since several Republican officials with national prominence, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, have ruled out pursuing the party's 2008 nomination.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani are often mentioned as prospective candidates, and several other potential Republican candidates, such as Sen. George Allen of Virginia and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, have not yet developed a national following.
Other Republicans have questioned whether evangelical Christians, a crucial component of the Republican base, would turn out to vote for a pro-choice candidate. Miss Rice, a Presbyterian's preacher's daughter who twice in the interview spoke of her "deep religious faith," suggested it's a moot point. "I'm not trying to be elected."
Miss Rice said abortion should be "as rare a circumstance as possible," although without excessive government intervention. "We should not have the federal government in a position where it is forcing its views on one side or the other.
"So, for instance, I've tended to agree with those who do not favor federal funding for abortion, because I believe that those who hold a strong moral view on the other side should not be forced to fund it."
Describing pro-lifers as "the other side" is one of the ways Miss Rice articulates her position as a "mildly pro-choice" Republican. She explained that she is "in effect kind of libertarian on this issue," adding: "I have been concerned about a government role.
"I am a strong proponent of parental notification. I am a strong proponent of a ban on late-term abortion. These are all things that I think unite people and I think that that's where we should be.
"We ought to have a culture that says, 'Who wants to have an abortion? Who wants to see a daughter or a friend or a sibling go through something like that?' "
Miss Rice described abortion as an "extremely difficult moral issue" which she approaches as "a deeply religious person."
"My faith is a part of everything that I do," she said. "It's not something that I can set outside of anything that I do, because it's so integral to who I am.
"And prayer is very important to me and a belief that if you ask for it, you will be guided. Now, that doesn't mean that I think that God will tell me what to do on, you know, the Iran nuclear problem.
"That's not how I see it. But I do believe very strongly that if you are a prayerful and faithful person, that that is a help in guiding us, as imperfect beings, to have to deal with extremely difficult and consequential matters."
Since becoming secretary of state earlier this year, she has noticed a public interest about even her taste in fashion. Yesterday, she wore a smartly tailored black suit with large gold buttons on the sleeves.
"I like clothes -- I always have," she said to laughter, answering a question. "You know, when I was 5 years old, my poor father would go off to work on his sermon on Saturday -- he was the Presbyterian minister -- so he would go off to work on his sermon. And my mother and I would go shopping. Shopping is fun."

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