Three Dead in Atlanta Courthouse Shooting

The search is on for an accused rapist who shot and killed three people. A Superior Court judge is among the victims after the man opened fire in a Fulton County courthouse earlier today.

Police say 34-year-old Brian Nichols walked into court for his trial, grabbed a deputy's gun and started shooting.

Just after 9am, the downtown Atlanta courtroom turned into a blood bath and chaos broke out at the city's courthouse. Four people were shot, three died, including Judge Rowland Barnes, his court reporter and a deputy. Another deputy was wounded.

Dr. Jeffrey Salamon, a trauma surgeon at Grady Memorial Hospital, said, "She is in critical condition but expected to survive."

It started in an eighth floor courtroom. Judge Barnes was presiding over Nichols' second trial on rape and kidnapping charges.

Renne Rockwell, an attorney, witnessed the events. "They were screaming, 'Sit down, get on the ground,' and put me on the elevator," she said.

The suspect escaped. Witnesses said there was more shooting outside of the courthouse. Some described seeing a man running away from the court.

Police are also investigating a series of carjackings which may have been part of the killer's getaway.

With a suspect on the loose, an intense manhunt on the ground and in the air is underway.

"Mr. Nichols is considered armed and extremely dangerous," said Sheriff Myron Freeman.

Government buildings and schools were put on lockdown. And in response to today's shootings, Gov. Sonny Perdue says he's hoping for better courthouse security in the state and around the country.

Reported by: Don Logana,