ATLANTA -- When a gunman opened fire at the county courthouse in March, a deputy followed a new policy and tried four times to verify a distress call before sending help, The Atlanta Journal- Constitution reported yesterday.
The policy, aimed at reducing time wasted on false alarms, was issued in January by one of the people killed in the rampage, the newspaper said.
On March 11, Brian Nichols, a defendant in a rape trial, allegedly overpowered a lone deputy and stole her gun. Authorities say he then killed Judge Rowland Barnes, court reporter Julie Ann Brandau, and sheriff's Sergeant Hoyt Teasley. Federal agent David Wilhelm was killed later that day. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Nichols, who was arrested the following morning.
In a Jan. 21 memo obtained by the newspaper, deputy Paul Tamer protested to his superiors about the new rule, which had been issued by Teasley. ''It is far more prudent to continue dispatching deputies to office and [judges'] chamber alarms rather than risking injury or death to a judge or staff member," Tamer wrote to Major Orlando Whitehead, who directed courthouse security.
It was Tamer, in the control room the morning of the shootings, who made repeated attempts to confirm the distress call from Barnes's courtroom. According to Tamer's memo, he tried to persuade Teasley to reverse the rule but Teasley said he would ''accept any blame" if things went wrong.