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A judge presiding over a rape trial was shot to death Friday along with two other people at a courthouse in Atlanta, authorities said. A fourth person was wounded and a search was under way for the suspect, the defendant in the trial. Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes and his court reporter were killed in the Fulton County Courthouse, said Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor. He gave no other details in announcing the deaths in the state Senate. A deputy shot outside the courthouse died later at a hospital, while a second deputy had minor wounds, police said. Witnesses said the gunman car jacked a vehicle and authorities were searching for a green Honda Accord. Fulton County Sheriff’s Lt. Clarence Huber identified the suspect as 33-year-old Brian Nichols, who was on trial on rape and other charges stemming from an incident in August. It was not immediately known how the suspect got a gun. “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 A tlanta Journal-Constitution newsroom staff was told that Don O’Briant, a features reporter for the paper, was beaten by the suspect and car jacked outside the courthouse. All the judges in the building were locked in their chambers. The courthouse and other buildings in downtown Atlanta were on lockdown. Traffic in the blocks surrounding the courthouse was backed up as police cruisers flooded the area looking for the suspect. James Bailey, a juror at Nichols’ trial, said the jury was not in the courtroom at the time of the shooting. Bailey said Nichols had made him and other jurors nervous. “Every time he looked up, he was staring at you,” Bailey said. He said Barnes was the presiding judge. Barnes was named to the Fulton County Superior Court bench in 1998. Barnes, 64, drew attention last month when he took the unusual step of ordering a mother of seven who pleaded guilty to killing her 5-week-old daughter to undergo a medical procedure that would prevent her from having more children. 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. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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