Barnes presided over Heatley case

Updated: March 12, 2005, 12:34 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

ATLANTA -- The judge who handled the car crash by hockey star Dany Heatley was shot to death Friday along with two other people at the Fulton County Courthouse, authorities said. The suspect, Brian Nichols, was captured Saturday at a suburban Atlanta apartment complex.

Nichols, 33, is also a suspect in connection with the fatal shooting of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent found dead early Saturday, FBI Spokesman Steve Lazarus said.

Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor confirmed that Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes and his court reporter were killed. He gave no other details in announcing the deaths in the state Senate. A deputy who was confronted outside the courthouse was shot, and died later at a hospital, authorities said.

Among cases Barnes handled was the fatal 2003 car wreck by Heatley that killed 25-year-old Atlanta Thrashers teammate Dan Snyder. Heatley pleaded guilty and was sentenced Feb. 4 to three years on probation and ordered to give 150 speeches about the dangers of speeding.

Nichols was on trial on rape and other charges stemming from an incident in August.

The suspect got the gun by overpowering a sheriff's deputy while he was being escorted within the courthouse, Assistant Police Chief Alan Dreher said. He then went to the courtroom, held about a dozen people there at bay for a short time and then shot and killed the judge and court reporter, he said.

The deputy who died was shot outside the courthouse as the suspect fled.

The people in the courtroom were there for routine civil matters; Nichols was being brought there for the planned resumption of his trial, Dreher said.

"We heard some noise. It sounded like three or four shots. At the time, we thought it was just an engine backfiring," said Chuck Cole, a civil defense attorney who was in an adjoining parking deck when he heard gunfire at around 9:10 a.m.

The sheriff's deputy shot outside the building died at Grady Hospital of an abdominal wound and the other was in critical condition but expected to survive, the hospital said.

"I saw one person on the street that they were performing CPR on," said court reporter Amy McKee.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Don O'Briant, a features reporter for the paper, was beaten by the suspect and carjacked outside the courthouse. O'Briant said in a live interview Friday afternoon that the suspect put a gun to his head and wanted him to get into the car's trunk; he refused and the suspect took off in his car.

The shooting happened 11 days after the husband and elderly mother of a federal judge in Chicago were shot to death in her home. A man whose medical malpractice lawsuit was dismissed by the judge committed suicide and left a note saying he was the killer.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.