The woman held hostage by courthouse shooting suspect Brian Nichols is speaking out about what happened. Ashley Smith says Nichols held her hostage in her Duluth, Georgia, home for several hours. Nichols is accused of killing three people in an Atlanta courthouse last Friday and is a suspect in a fourth murder.
Smith says she was returning home from the store Saturday when Nichols approached her with a gun. "And he said, 'Do you know who I am?' and I said no. Because he had a hat on. And he took hat off. And he said, 'Now do you know who I am?' and I said, 'Yeah I know who you are. Please don't hurt me. I have a five-year-old little girl, please don't hurt me. He said, I'm not going to hurt you if you just do what I say.'"
Once Nichols allowed Smith to leave the apartment, she called police and he surrendered without incident.
Atlanta's security breakdown has opened a few eyes here at home. Just how safe is the Chatham County Courthouse? If you walk into the courthouse, you'll notice a security check, plenty of officers and cameras. Sheriff Al St. Lawrence held a meeting this morning to talk about ways to make sure something like the Atlanta incident never happens here.
"It's a very risky job, a dangerous job," said Sgt. David Walker, who has been a courthouse deputy in Chatham County for 20 years. He thought he had seen it all. Until Friday, when Nichols went on a shooting rampage, killing a judge, a court reporter, and a deputy.
"It could happen anywhere," he said.
But in Chatham County, officers in close contact with inmates don't carry weapons. Sgt. Walker says you never know when someone could snap. "There is always that likelihood. You don't know what people are thinking," he said. "That's the reason why we do not wear our guns in locking areas."
Backing up deputies like Sgt. Walker are 42 cameras set up all over the Chatham County Courthouse. And in response to Friday's shootings, they hope to get more cameras to keep an eye on what's going on.
"We all must be vigilant and remember we are our brother's keeper," said Sgt. Ron Carter, another Chatham County deputy.
But is surveillance always paying attention? Sgt. Carter, along with a lobby security guard, monitors the camera views around the courthouse. He's not sure how what happened in Atlanta on Friday wasn't caught early on. "Sometimes it's hard to maintain focus, but this is our primary job," he said.
"This is going to trigger a lot of things right now with what happened in Fulton County," Sheriff St. Lawrence said.
He says more cameras will be first. "We got hallways and stairwells that we need to keep up with what's going on."
Coincidently, deputies had a meeting before the Miss Savannah trial started to discuss weapon containment.