A man stole a deputy’s gun while being escorted to his rape trial and shot her in the face. He then entered the courtroom and shot dead the judge and court reporter before killing a deputy who confronted him and then carjacking a reporter’s car to flee the scene. He is still at large.
The suspect has been identified as Brian Nichols, 33, who was on trial for raping an ex-girlfriend over a period of three days. Last week, his first trial for the crime ended in a hung jury.
Nichols would have faced a life prison sentence if convicted. He had been in jail for the last six months.
The suspect is believed to have overpowered the female deputy who was escorting him to court to take her gun and make an escape. Law requires that defendants enter a courtroom uncuffed so the jury won’t influenced and immediately view them as criminals. The deputy who escorted the man survived the encounter, but details on her condition were not available.
Nichols' face has been broadcast on television and posted in the area to alert people to be on the lookout for him. Many stores and schools closed their doors to prevent an attack.
More than 100 state troopers and officers from various agencies are assisting in the search for the suspect, but there are few leads.