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COURT SHOOTING PROBE CALLED A WHITEWASH ATLANTA � A high-ranking sheriff’s deputy charges that a county investigation into the March 11 courthouse shootings in Atlanta that resulted in the death of a judge and two others was whitewashed to protect the county government from liability. Fulton County, Ga., Chief Deputy Michael Cooke made the allegation in an interview with two members of an independent task force looking into courthouse security lapses. The interview transcript is one of about 50 that have been released by the task force, which was appointed by Fulton County Sheriff Myron Freeman to find out how rape defendant Brian Nichols allegedly broke free from a deputy and subsequently shot to death three people. Cooke, the third-highest-ranking deputy in the sheriff’s department, said that eight days after the shootings, Freeman and other top officers agreed to order an independent review of the violence so that it would not appear the department was attempting to protect its image. Two days later, Cooke told the investigators, County Attorney Overtis Hicks Brantley instigated a “bastardized investigation.” The initial report, released April 7, stated that Fulton deputies “responded appropriately and in a manner consistent with their training” during the courthouse shootings. The report assigned no blame for any possible missteps that may have contributed to the deaths of Fulton Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes, court reporter Julie Brandau, and Sgt. Hoyt Teasley. In contrast to the sheriff’s initial report, the investigation by the task force, also known as the Fulton County Courthouse Security Commission, has resulted in the firings of eight deputies for violations such as unsatisfactory performance. � Fulton County Daily Report

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