March 13, 2005

Nichols' hostage, and how she got away

Brian Nichols held an unidentified 30-something year-old woman in her apartment in Gwinnett County overnight Friday night, sometimes at gun point, sometimes tied up.

She talked about her young daughter. She talked about her late husband. And she talked about God. During the more than seven hours she was held hostage inside her apartment, sometimes at gunpoint, the Duluth woman talked about her life until, somehow, she was able to persuade the gunman to untie her and let her go.

"She was able to gain a rapport with him. I think she gained enough of a rapport with him that he trusted her to leave the apartment," said Gwinnett police Officer Anthony Bassett, the first officer to arrive after the woman called 911 Saturday morning.

Bassett said it wasn't clear to him why Nichols released the woman. Perhaps it was to check on her daughter, who was somewhere else, the officer said. Atlanta police Chief Richard Pennington said he thought she appealed to Nichols on a spiritual level.

Early Saturday morning, she was able to convince Nichols to release her. She went to the rental office of the apartment complex, and called 911.

In a press conference yesterday afternoon, we learned that after he left the Centennial Garage across from CNN Center and Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta Friday morning, Brian Nichols indeed hopped a MARTA train, as I suggested, and ended up at the Lenox station.

Apparently, at some point, Nichols forcibly entered a woman's apartment after placing a gun to the back of her head. Nichols apparently got into a fight with her boyfriend and fled.

Nichols wandered southward from the Lenox Square area along Lenox Road, coming across ICE agent David Wilhelm working on his home on nearby Cantor Road. Police believe Nichols shot and killed Wilhelm, stealing his badge, gun and Chevrolet pickup.

Sometime late Friday night, or early Saturday, he forcibly entered the apartment of a woman arriving home at the Bridgewater apartment complex off of Satellite Blvd. in Duluth. There, Nichols held her while watching television coverage of his murderous rampage.

Nichols surrendered to a Gwinnett County SWAT team by waving a white shirt around 11:30 yesterday morning.

Though he is set to be arraigned on state and federal charges this week (and in the midst of much rejoycing and back-slapping by local and federal officials), larger questions remain:

  • Why has political correctness run so far amok that we worry about what suspects wear in court?
  • Why was a single female deputy assigned to Nichols as he changed clothes in preparation for his court appearance Friday morning?
  • Why was security not beefed up, given the fact that metallic foreign objects that had been fashioned into crude weapons had been taken from Nichols earlier in the week (mind you, Judge Barnes had expressed concerns about security in relation to this case earlier in the week)?
  • Why didn't the Atlanta Police Department have the more than logical insight to search all the garages in the downtown area?
  • And likewise, why didn't the APD think to check any and all security cameras in and around the downtown area?
  • Why didn't the APD (and other agencies involved) think to search MARTA and their security cameras, along with the GA DOT traffic cameras Friday morning, especially since they weren't sure where Nichols was going?
And on an unrelated note, will someone please do whatever is necessary to keep Fulton County Sheriff Myron Freeman as far away from a microphone as is humanly possible? His command of the English language is marginal at best.

There were plenty of mistakes in how this situation was handled, and I have to agree with a number of other critics in that several of the officials involved need to step down. I'm not holding my breath though.

Posted by mhking at March 13, 2005 09:37 AM

That's one courageous lady, to be sure. It sounds like she did us all a great favor. I hope she gets to enjoy some peaceful time with her daughter and can get over the impact of this. Do we have any programs to help persons over something like this?

I don't consider myself a wimp, but it sounds as if she lives alone with just her daughter. I would be a basket case after such an experience, and I would be terrified for my child.

Very nice coverage of this tragic incident. I don't know enough to judge what the police should have done, but it does seem as if the effort to capture him right after he escaped wasn't very efficient.

Posted by: MaxedOutMama at March 13, 2005 11:56 AM

It isn't "political correctness" that allows those who are on trial to not wear prison clothes, IT IS THE PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE

Come on. You're more intellegent than that.

If you want to pull the "pc card," go for the single female guarding an inmate.

Posted by: DarkStar at March 13, 2005 02:14 PM


Thanks for your coverage yesterday. I tuned into all the news outlets and also to your blog and Quinton's. Good job.

As for this post, I'm sorry to say, I'm feeling a little silly about it. The first thing I thought of when I read this account was that the woman just talked and talked until even a crazy nutjob like Nichols got sick of listening to her.

The only reason I find it funny is that it reminded me of what my dad always says about my mom: "Don't get her started. And when she starts, just walk away!"

On a more serious note, a couple of your questions I think are a bit less than fair to the police force and authorities. First, the previous commenter is right. If people have to wear orange jumpsuits to court, it does prejudice the jury. It is not political correctness.

Second, the police were positive that he'd escaped in a car. I ride MARTA everyday, and I can assure you that it would have caused panic to see hundreds of police officers descend on the system.

Finally, given how quickly they found him - and I do think it was pretty quickly - I'll give them the benefit of the doubt on the garage thing and the security tapes. Maybe they knew something that we didn't. Maybe. We have a tendancy to try to solve the case ourselves and make our own guesses. Not that we should not question the police. But I'd prefer to congratulate them on a job well done.

Your point about security at the jail though, is spot on. And I think there's going to be hell to pay for that. But then, it's Fulton County - a place where nothing ever seems to get done, right? *sigh* We can hope.

Again, than you for your EXCELLENT coverage yesterday.

Posted by: Michael at March 13, 2005 03:54 PM

Michael & DS,

Believe it or not, I had an arguement with SheWhoMustBeObeyed this morning about my statement there, and I'll admit to a certain amount of pigheadedness in the midst of my Monday morning quarterbacking on this one.

Thinking rationally, I can certainly understand the possible bias against one in shackles and a prison jumpsuit. But the alternative has to be tempered in some method(s) that will ensure (at least as far as it can be in that situation) the safety of those who are working in or attending the court.

I still feel that the APD screwed up in their searches, and yes, I'll admit the hindsight factor is probably weighing in heavily on my part there as well.

And I still feel that Myron Freeman needs to make certain that he has a spokesperson to filter his statements through. I'm sure he's a capable sheriff. And if his statements came through an assistant chief or something, given his unease (which was obvious) before microphones, I'm sure they would have been given more weight.

Posted by: mhking at March 13, 2005 06:56 PM

Can somebody please explain why it is that after he broke away from a single female deputy, he was pictured being led by a single female deputy after his capture. I think it must be that symbolism thing I keep hearing is so important. Sorry mike, I really don't give a stuff that he was allowed to change from prison clothes, but who was the great stupid nong that allowed him to be alone in a room with a single guard, without at least his hands being manacled.

Posted by: Todd at March 14, 2005 12:21 AM

Just wanted to say your blog & Stephanie Key's have great insights on the Atlanta cops. Anyone who's interested in the topic of police ineptitude might want to check out Heads will Roll and Missteps by the Police. Also left a comment or two, hope you agree with the points (at least a little :-)

Posted by: RD at March 14, 2005 05:09 AM

Michael, any thoughts on this statement from Ashley Smith?

He came into my apartment telling me that he was a soldier. And that people -- that his people needed him for a job to do. And he was doing it.

Posted by: Timothy Goddard at March 14, 2005 11:40 AM

Obviously many questions remain in the aftermath of this terrible tradgedy, and the main stream media is saying "how lucky", and "how smart and cool" Ashley Smith was while being held hostage. She has quite clearly explained that her telling about her life experiences and her faith in God and The Lord Jesus Christ had an over whellming impact in changing this situation. Even Nichols' called her an Angel from God. I know the idea of Divine Intervention to the MSM is virtually impossible to believe let alone report, but people, it's really not that complicated. Look at all the things that man's efforts screwed up in this situation, and then look at how it was all brought to a non-violent conclusion through the Power and Soveriengty of God.

Posted by: Robert Orcutt at March 14, 2005 01:11 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?