Security lapses by the Fulton Sheriff’s Department, some years in the making, aided Atlanta courthouse killer Brian Nichols at every turn, an investigation by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found. The newspaper identified crucial missteps – including a sick day for a deputy who may not have been sick, a quick breakfast run, a delayed response to an emergency call, and a failure to close off fire exits. The breakdowns gave Nichols the opportunity to break free, seize two deputies’ guns, and escape from a building full of armed law enforcement officers.
The failures reflect long-standing problems in the department – rampant absenteeism, conflicting allegiances, a disregard for physical fitness, ineffective management, and poor emergency preparedness, the Journal-Constitution concluded. To fix them, Sheriff Myron Freeman will face an entrenched courthouse culture that has not always taken safety seriously. “Things have been going on in that courthouse this way for years and everybody just took it for granted,” said the U.S. marshal in Atlanta, Richard Mecum, chairman of a task force investigating the shootings and courthouse security. “Nobody wanted to change it. That is cush duty.”