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Sheriff Myron E. Freeman said Thursday that he expects to ask the Fulton County Commission for more money to provide security at the county’s courthouse and jail. He added that he expects to issue a report the first week of April on the events surrounding the courthouse shootings. In an interview Thursday afternoon with the Fulton County Daily Report — one of his first since the events of March 11 — Freeman and Chief Deputy Michael J. Cooke outlined the security measures instituted since the shootings, defended the assignment of a lone female deputy, Cynthia A. Hall, to guard accused shooter Brian G. Nichols, and said Judge Rowland W. Barnes never asked for extra security during Nichols’ rape trial. Cooke said the deputies took it upon themselves to place an extra person in the courtroom for the rape trial. Nichols had been on trial facing charges of rape, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and aggravated sodomy when the shootings occurred. On the morning of March 11, he was in a holding cell on the eighth floor of the Justice Center Tower when he allegedly overpowered Hall, took her gun belt and keys, and retrieved her gun from a nearby lockbox. Nichols then made his way to Barnes’ courtroom where he allegedly killed Barnes and court reporter Julie A. Brandau. Nichols is alleged to have killed Sgt. Hoyt Teasley outside the courthouse and David Wilhelm, an assistant special agent in charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in Buckhead, Ga. Cooke said the deputies opted to place another person in the courtroom for the trial after finding steel shanks in Nichols’ shoes. Three deputies were in Barnes’ courtroom Thursday, the day before the shootings, Cooke said, and three would have been there Friday when the trial resumed. At the time of the shootings, Barnes was presiding over a civil motion hearing. ‘YOU CAN’T DISCRIMINATE’ Freeman also defended assigning Hall, a 5-foot, 51-year-old woman, to guard Nichols, a muscular, former college linebacker. Freeman said the deputy had transported “murderers, convicted felons, rapists” on numerous occasions and had been a “long-term employee” who did “an excellent job.” “You can’t discriminate based on gender,” Freeman said. “A deputy sheriff is a deputy sheriff.” He added that Hall had escorted Nichols several times before March 11 without incident. Cooke said that Hall was unarmed that day when she went to the ground-floor holding area, retrieved Nichols and brought him to the detention area on the eighth floor of the Justice Center Tower. Typically, a deputy would bring an inmate to the eighth-floor detention area, allow the defendant to change clothes for the trial and then call over a supervising deputy who would accompany the first deputy in escorting the inmate to the courtroom. On this day, Nichols saw his chance before Hall called the supervisor, Cooke said. “He [Nichols] saw a window of opportunity at that time,” Cooke said. “He took it and perpetrated a crime of assault on her.” It was not unusual for Hall to be alone with an inmate, he added. “It’s a job the deputy sheriff does day in, day out,” Cooke said. MORE DEPUTIES, FEWER INMATES In the immediate aftermath of the shootings, the sheriff’s office has added 40 uniformed deputies to the courthouse staff, placed more deputies in the courtrooms and implemented specially trained “transport teams” to escort high-risk inmates from the detention areas to the courtrooms. Those escorts will not carry lethal weapons. In addition, the sheriff has reduced to 225 the number of inmates transported each day from the jail to the courthouse. The sheriff’s office was bringing as many as 400 inmates over each day. Freeman also has begun forming a task force with several other law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Marshal’s Service, to assess security at the courthouse. He did not give a date for when that group would begin its work. Nevertheless, the sheriff expects to go to the county commission soon to ask for more money and more personnel. When he came into office on Jan. 1, Freeman said, his first priority was to focus on the beleaguered jail. Freeman explained that as far as he knew at the time, courthouse security and operations were adequate. He noted that at the time he was sworn in, an interim sheriff, Ted Jackson, was running the department, and the jail was operating under a federal receiver, John Gibson. “My idea when I first came in was to put everything back together,” Freeman said.

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