Defendant who shot three in court arrested after stand-off

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The Independent US

A man, suspected of shooting dead three people, including a judge, inside a US courthouse, was arrested yesterday after an extensive police operation across the state of Georgia.

A man, suspected of shooting dead three people, including a judge, inside a US courthouse, was arrested yesterday after an extensive police operation across the state of Georgia.

The capture of Brian Nichols, 33, who is also believed to have shot dead a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, ended more than 24 hours of terror around the city of Atlanta.

Darren Moloney, from the Gwinnett County Police Department, said that Nichols was armed and had a woman hostage when he was caught just north of the state capital.

Mr Moloney said: "Brian Nichols is in custody. He turned himself in without incident. Everybody is safe."

The killing spree began on Friday as Nichols was being escorted to his retrial on rape and other charges. It is thought that he overpowered Cynthia Hall, a court deputy, and took her gun. Nichols opened fire inside the chambers of Judge Rowland Barnes, who was presiding over his case, killing the judge, a court stenographer and a sheriff's deputy.

As he made his escape, Nichols allegedly pistol-whipped Don O'Briant, a reporter with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and stole his car.

Mr O'Briant said yesterday that he had just parked his car when a young man parked beside him and pulled out a gun saying, "Give me your keys or I'll kill you."

Mr O'Briant refused and started to run. "I figured it was better to be shot at while I was running than to just stand there and be executed," he wrote in his paper.

"I scrambled into the street, waiting for the shots to come, but they didn't come. I guess it just wasn't my day to die."

The shootings set off a massive manhunt and schools and offices were shut because of safety fears.

Steve Lazarus, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said Nichols was a suspect in the fatal shooting of David Wilhelm, the immigration agent whose body was discovered near the courthouse yesterday.

Last Thursday, the judge and prosecutors in Nichols' case requested extra security after investigators found a home-made knife in each of Nichols' shoes, prosecutor Gayle Abramson said.

In the rape case, Nichols was accused of sexually assaulting his ex-girlfriend over three days. He faced a possible life sentence if convicted and his earlier trial was declared a mistrial last Monday when jurors voted 8-4 for acquittal.

"My guts tell me he faced a greater chance of conviction in the second trial," said his attorney, Barry Hazen.

* A gunman opened fire at a church service at a US hotel, killing four people. Police said seven to eight people, all in a serious condition, were taken to hospital near the scene of the shooting in Brookfield, Wisconsin. The gunman shot and killed himself.

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