Two security assessments warned that Atlanta’s Fulton County Courthouse was “very vulnerable,” and one of them singled out the courtroom assigned to the late Judge Rowland Barnes, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Two years after the reports were delivered to then-Sheriff Jackie Barrett and the Fulton County Commission, little had been done to correct problems at the time of the March 11 shootings that left the judge and three other people dead.
“I was literally sick to my stomach,” Norman Hylton, assistant chief deputy for the U.S. Marshals Service, said when he reviewed his findings. “It’s eye-opening to reread an evaluation that may have prevented a loss of life.” An audit by the Dallas-based Community Safety Institute said, “All but one judge’s chamber is located in a secure area.” Though it does not name that judge, those familiar with the report said Barnes’ courtroom was the one in question. Barnes’ chambers had a partly installed security system that was designed to allow employees to see visitors on a monitor and control who entered. But visitors found that the hallway door to the judge’s chambers was rarely locked. On at least one occasion, a note beside the door told visitors that it was “Open.”