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Minutes before gunning down Fulton County Superior Court Judge Rowland W. Barnes and his court reporter Friday, the shooter calmly answered a police radio call intended for a deputy he had just disarmed and handcuffed. Responding to the urgent chirping of a two-way radio he had wrested from Barnes’ courtroom deputy, the gunman — whom law enforcement authorities have identified as rape defendant Brian G. Nichols — calmly keyed the deputy’s police radio and answered the call, said Atlanta attorney David E. Allman. Handcuffed by the gunman minutes earlier, Allman was sitting on the floor of Barnes’ chambers, while the judge’s secretary, also in handcuffs, and calendar clerk huddled in a corner. In answer to a repeated call for “158,” the apparent radio call sign for Deputy Grantley White, the gunman picked up White’s radio and responded, “158,” Allman said this week. Asked for his location, the gunman responded, “In the judge’s chambers.” At the time, Barnes was on the bench, hearing a motion in a civil case, unaware that Nichols had invaded his office, disarmed two deputies and was brandishing two guns, one of them a .40-caliber Beretta. Allman, a real estate and traffic attorney whose solo practice is less than a block from the Fulton County Courthouse, and Richard L. Robbins, a Sutherland Asbill & Brennan partner who witnessed Barnes’ slaying, spoke at length to the Daily Report about the events they witnessed Friday when Barnes, court reporter Julie A. Brandau and sheriff’s deputy Sgt. Hoyt Teasley were shot and killed. This is their story. ‘HE WAS ACTING LIKE A COMMANDO’ Allman was seeking an emergency hearing for a client in an escalating real estate dispute when he arrived at Barnes’ office at 8:45 a.m. Friday. Barnes usually reserved that time for matters he could deal with quickly before beginning his daily calendar, Allman said. Allman walked into the judge’s unlocked office suite. Although the outer door was equipped with an automatic lock and security buzzer, for months a small, handwritten sign saying “open” had been taped to the door, Allman said. Barnes was already in the courtroom, presiding over a defendant’s motion for summary judgment in a contract dispute. Told that the hearing probably would last at least 30 minutes, Allman decided to wait in the judge’s office suite. “I started to go into the courtroom,” he said. But the judge’s well-known hospitality included fresh coffee and sometimes cookies or other delicacies baked by his court reporter, Brandau. Allman elected to wait on a couch in an anteroom between Barnes’ chambers and his secretary’s office. Allman was perusing the newspaper comics when the judge’s secretary and calendar clerk, without saying a word, walked in front of him en route to Barnes’ chambers. They were followed by a tall, well-dressed black man in his early 30s. He was wearing a sports jacket and pants, a dress shirt and a deputy’s utility belt — and carrying what Allman immediately recognized as a deputy’s gun. “My assumption was that he was a cop, a plainclothes man,” Allman said. “He was totally calm.” As the women entered Barnes’ office, the man with the gun turned to face Allman and motioned at him with the weapon. “I glanced up at him and back at the paper,” Allman said. “I still thought he was a cop. I thought he was clearing the area to bring in prisoners.” Allman said he stood and followed the women into the judge’s chambers, puzzled but still not aware there was any danger. The two women huddled in the southwest corner of the judge’s office by the windows, Allman recalled, “and they are stricken; they are crying.” “That’s the moment I realized this guy was not a cop. He was here to shoot the judge.” Once inside the judge’s chambers, the gunman ordered Allman, “Get down on the floor.” “It was totally surreal,” he recalled. “I assumed he had walked in off the street because he was wearing a gun belt and carrying a deputy’s gun. I assumed he’d waylaid a deputy.” The gunman produced two pairs of handcuffs, which he used to restrain Allman and Barnes’ secretary. Then he slammed the judge’s phone against the desk until it broke. The gunman patted down his hostages and demanded their cell phones, and Allman said he noted that the gunman ignored his wallet. Then the gunman left. Within minutes, he was back. “He leaves the room and comes back several times,” Allman said. Each time, he was gone no more than a couple of minutes. During one of the gunman’s brief absences, Allman said, he asked the women, “Do you know who this guy is?” “He’s one of our defendants,” Barnes’ secretary answered. Minutes passed. “I tried to figure out what to do,” Allman said. “I thought about kicking out a window.” But on the eighth floor of the old courthouse, he didn’t think anybody would notice, except the gunman, who Allman was certain would then shoot him. During the gunman’s fourth absence from the judge’s office, the hostages heard sounds of a struggle elsewhere in the judge’s suite and furniture being overturned. “Good, it’s Grantley” the secretary breathed, referring to the judge’s courtroom deputy, Grantley White. About a minute later, Allman said, White entered the room, his hands in the air. The gunman was behind him, this time with two guns. The gunman then placed White in his own handcuffs. He took White’s keys and police radio and snatched his tie, tossing it aside with disgust when he saw it was a clip-on. He then turned to Allman and began tugging at the lawyer’s knotted silk tie. Unable to pull the tie loose, the gunman abandoned the effort. Allman said he suspects the gunman intended to use the tie to bind the calendar clerk, the only hostage not in handcuffs. Meanwhile, White had begun gasping for breath, and Barnes’ secretary told the gunman that the 60-year-old deputy had a heart condition. “She wants him [the gunman] to leave [White] alone,” Allman said. The gunman demanded of his hostages, “Where is the judge?” Allman recalled. “He’s in the courtroom,” Barnes’ secretary answered. “They’re all in the courtroom. He’s on the bench.” “What courtroom?” the gunman asked. “Our courtroom,” the secretary responded. The gunman intercepted the radio call to White and twice more left the judge’s chambers, only to return minutes later. “He was acting like a commando throughout this,” Allman recalled of the gunman. “He is focused. He is purposeful. He gives the appearance of knowing what he is doing.” The gunman then pulled White to his feet, opened a closet door and shoved the handcuffed deputy inside, Allman said. Then the gunman left again, this time climbing the several steps to the private entrance to Barnes’ courtroom. Seconds later, Allman said, he heard two shots, then screams. BARNES’ LAST WORDS In the courtroom, Robbins was sitting at the table that Fulton prosecutors had occupied in prosecuting Nichols for the rape and sodomy of his former girlfriend — an ongoing case in Barnes’ courtroom that was scheduled to resume at 9:30 a.m. Friday. Robbins’ opposing counsel — a Midtown Atlanta lawyer — his associate and their client were sitting at the defendant’s table. Barnes was on the bench. Brandau had taken her seat below and to the judge’s right. The judge’s interim staff attorney was also in the courtroom, seated near Brandau and the judge. Robbins would not identify the attorneys, their firm, the case or Barnes’ staff attorney, saying they have asked him not to release their names. Barnes had convened the hearing shortly before 8:30 a.m. Knowing that time was short because of the scheduled rape trial, Robbins was watching the clock with growing impatience as his opposing counsel made a lengthy argument seeking summary judgment for his client. It was 8:55 a.m. Barnes glanced over in Robbins’ direction, the lawyer recalled. The judge’s last words, he said, “were a joke.” In a wry aside from the bench, as Barnes often did, the judge “was teasing me about something,” Robbins recalled. And then Barnes winked. At that moment, Robbins said he heard a clatter, as if an easel had fallen. Barnes slumped sideways without a sound, his eyes already closed as the gunshot echoed in the courtroom. “He suffered no pain,” Robbins said. “He never knew what hit him. It was so quick.” Robbins said he “looked to see who shot the judge. I saw this guy standing there and holding a large gun. I could tell it was a large caliber pistol.” The gunman, Robbins said, was standing 10 to 15 feet from Barnes when he fired. He was less than three feet from the court reporter, whose back was to him. Then the gunman “turned toward me. I realized he was going to shoot the prosecutor next, and I was sitting at the prosecutor’s table … He was very calm, and I had this feeling he was going to kill all of us. It was methodical. Kill the judge. Then kill the prosecutor … Then kill everybody else,” Robbins said. Robbins said he sprang up, pushed open the gate separating the lawyers from the courtroom spectators and ran as the gunman shot court reporter Brandau. “I don’t know. It was just instinct,” he said. There was nowhere to hide, and “I didn’t want to be a full-on target.” What Robbins didn’t know until this week was that, after shooting Brandau, the gunman raced out of the courtroom’s double doors behind him. But instead of chasing the lawyer, the gunman found a way out of the courthouse. “I didn’t like the idea of running out and leaving people behind,” Robbins said. “The last thing I saw, they were frozen in place. You hate to leave people behind. But I knew the judge was a goner.” And, he added, he hoped the others would follow his lead and flee. Unable to find an unlocked door or security personnel in the empty hallway outside of Barnes’ courtroom, Robbins raced across the sky bridge to the Justice Tower and another judge’s unlocked offices. The judge, whom he declined to name, wasn’t there, but Robbins told the secretary what had happened and urged her to lock the door. Panicked, the woman responded, “I don’t know how to lock it. We never lock it. It’s too much trouble.” As he urged her to recall how to lock the door, Robbins said, he realized that the glass panels separating the hall and the judge’s office offered little protection. As he searched for a makeshift weapon and a place that he and the secretary might hide, he began calling courthouse security numbers he found in the judge’s phone directory. Several people he reached on those security lines expressed “total shock” and promised to “write it down and pass it on. I wasn’t sure the information was getting there.” Then, Robbins said, “I heard deputies running around saying, “He got away.” Robbins said he and the secretary turned on the judge’s TV and began watching live news accounts. But they remained locked in. “I didn’t know if he [the gunman] was still in the courthouse,” Robbins said. “No one really knew where he was. I wasn’t going to leave that office until someone came and got me.” ‘WHY IS HE STILL IN CUFFS?’ Back in Barnes’ chambers, the handcuffed deputy, White, freed himself from the closet, picked up his radio from a chair and began calling for help. “A shooter is loose on the eighth floor of the old building. A shooter is loose in the building. We think he’s shot a judge,” Allman recalled the deputy broadcasting. The deputy made no mention of his location or which judge had been shot. At that moment, Robbins’ opposing counsel, his associate and their client burst into the judge’s chambers, shouting, “Somebody just shot and killed the judge.” Barnes’ female staff attorney wasn’t with them. Robbins, they told the hostages, had run from the courtroom followed by the gunman. Uncertain of the gunman’s whereabouts, Allman — still cuffed and sitting on the floor — yelled at the lawyers to close and lock the door they had just run through. Barnes’ secretary begged them to call an ambulance. One of the two attorneys who had witnessed the shooting called 911 on his dying cell phone, but Allman said an emergency operator placed him on hold. He finally got through. Still, no help arrived. White left the judge’s chambers, leaving the hostages, two of them still in handcuffs, and the three shooting witnesses behind. Allman said several more minutes passed before a contingent of about 10 deputies entered the judge’s chambers, surrounded everyone and began herding them out of the judge’s office suite as they excitedly sought a description of the gunman. “Nobody was in charge,” Allman said. And the initial descriptions offered by the rattled witnesses “were just terrible.” First, the deputies started to take Allman and the others up one flight to the ninth floor, then abruptly changed course and headed for the bridge connecting the old courthouse where the shooting occurred to the new Justice Tower. Then they reversed direction a third and finally a fourth time, Allman said. By the time Allman — still in cuffs and flanked by deputies who had grabbed him by the shoulders — was led to an empty courtroom in the Justice Tower, as many as 30 deputies and county marshals were clustered around him. Allman realized that he was being detained not because he had been a hostage, but because they thought he might be the shooter. “They don’t know who they are looking for. They are trying to get a description, and everybody is talking at once. It was pandemonium,” Allman recalled. A short time later, Barnes’ secretary identified Allman for his law enforcement escorts. “Why is he still in cuffs?” she asked. “He’s just a lawyer.” But Allman remained cuffed as a mushrooming contingent of county law enforcement officers herded him, the judge’s two staff members and the three witnesses who had fled the courtroom to Barnes’ chambers to a jury room. Allman said he had attempted to describe the gunman. “I told a marshal he was wearing a bright, flashy, go-to-a-party blue shirt,” the attorney said. “It was like talking to the wind. I had no feeling this information was going anywhere.” Deputies and marshals milled in and out of the jury room talking about the shootings in the courtroom and outside in the street where another deputy had been gunned down. Allman said he had the impression that many of the officers were frightened. While deputies were questioning Allman, the judge’s staff and the three witnesses, Allman said a woman wearing a county identification badge entered the jury room and approached the attorney who had witnessed the shooting and called 911 on his cell phone from Barnes’ chambers. “I’m Judge Barnes’ wife,” she said. “Can anybody tell me what’s going on?” Allman said that the blood drained from the lawyer’s face. He looked at the judge’s wife. “I don’t know,” he said. Apparently, no one, Allman said, had thought to send a deputy to Fulton State Court Judge John R. Mather’s chambers, where Claudia Barnes worked, to tell her what had happened to her husband. Claudia Barnes left the room, Allman said, still seeking information about her husband. Allman said he remained cuffed as deputies brought in possible witnesses to the gunman’s escape and the street shooting of Deputy Teasley. They also escorted in Barnes’ staff attorney, in apparent shock, her dress covered in blood. More than an hour passed before a detective who arrived to take Allman’s statement finally removed his handcuffs. Reflecting on Friday’s horrific events, Allman mused that he could have been “collateral damage” in the gunman’s apparent drive to kill Barnes. “It’s numbing.”

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