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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Body of U.S. Customs Agent Found in Atlanta while Manhunt Continues for Suspect in Courthouse Shooting; Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to Meet with Special U.N. Envoy; Ukraine to Withdraw 150 Troops from Iraq
Aired March 12, 2005 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's take a close look, first pictures of a suspect on the run. New images from Turner Security this morning show a man police say killed a judge, a court reporter, and a sheriff's deputy. Investigators are checking more security cameras for images right now to try and learn where Brian Nichols went next, hoping to find a lead that could lead them to the courthouse killer.
From the CNN Center in Atlanta, it is March 12. Good morning, everyone. I'm Tony Harris.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Betty Nguyen. Thank you for joining us for our continuing coverage.
Police tell CNN they have some new leads in the search for Brian Nichols, the suspect in yesterday's Atlanta courthouse shooting. The search is said to be the largest manhunt in Georgia history.
But a day after the deadly rampage, Nichols is still at large. Police say the new leads came from tips they got overnight, but they won't give any details about those tips.
Nichols is accused of having the blood of a judge, a sheriff's deputy, and a court reporter on his hands. He is considered extremely dangerous. Here's a picture of him right now with the tip-line numbers.
Police thought Nichols used a 1997 Honda Accord as his getaway car, but that car was found last night in a parking garage by a private citizen, not by police. Nichols had apparently carjacked the vehicle from a newspaper reporter just after the shooting rampage.
HARRIS: Let's take a real close look together at the surveillance tape. At 9:30 a.m. yesterday morning, the man enters the stairwell of a parking deck, level two of the parking deck. He is buttoning what looks like a suit jacket. And he's not wearing a shirt underneath.
He's trying to make a decision here as to whether to go upstairs to level three, or downstairs to the lower level.
Now he will -- there's that moment. Now you will see that he casually walks down the stairs to the first level.
As the manhunt continues, people living in and around Atlanta are being asked to report any sightings. Authorities also want to hear from people in the area who have any family members or close friends who might be missing. The police tip line -- two lines in fact -- 404-730-7982. Here's the second number, right there on your screen, 1-888-6-FULTON.
COLLINS: Twenty-four hours later, and they are still out there, hundreds of police officers from dozens of jurisdictions. They are looking for the gunman in three courthouse killings in Atlanta.
CNN correspondent Kimberly Osais joins us now with the latest on this manhunt. And Kimberly, you are standing outside that parking garage where we saw those surveillance pictures just moments ago. What is the latest?
KIMBERLY OSIAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Betty, this is a key area to investigators. They are actually going to be coming back and sort of retracing Brian Nichols' last steps that he had here.
Now, this is very, very important. And I know that you just showed our viewers this video. But I don't think we can show it enough, because investigators are also looking at it again. It is the last-known sighting that we have on tape. And this is CNN exclusive video.
And when you actually look at it, I'm actually on the third floor, which is sort of interesting. He, Mr. Nichols, is believed to have gone one floor lower down the stairs and then stopped at the landing. That's where you see him sort of pausing to determine his next move.
And what is interesting is his attire. Clearly you can tell he does not have a shirt on. He's bare-chested. But he does have a jacket on. Perhaps that is because he put the jacket on of that reporter that he allegedly pistol-whipped. The reporter had a broken arm, was treated at the hospital, a reporter with the "AJC," but obviously feeling incredibly blessed today.
Now, when you actually go down, he's believed to have gone down two levels from where I'm standing now, and then perhaps either hotwired a car or walked out on foot on his own power. Investigators simply do not know. Or if they do, they are not leaking any kind of leads right now, because obviously this is an incredibly important investigation.
And obviously, with this man out on the loose, armed and dangerous, it is very important to keep these things very, very close to the vest.
They do believe that he is needing money. When you leave this area, there is a wooden arm that goes up and down. Now, we are in a location where the SEC basketball tournament has taken place. So it is quite a busy parking lot, often much activity. Whether that break in the wooden arm can be attributed to Mr. Nichols and his escape or not is still not known yet. But investigators are going to look at that again -- Betty, Tony. NGUYEN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). So it is not known if he went out by way of car or by foot, because the cameras did not catch him at that point on level one of the parking garage. CNN's Kimberly Osias, thanks for that report.
HARRIS: Despite the day-long search by police for the Honda Accord, it was a private citizen who spotted the reporter's car last night in the same parking garage where it had been carjacked. The director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation made this statement around midnight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VERNON KEENAN, GBI DIRECTOR: About 90 minutes ago, the green Honda that we have had the nationwide lookout for was found here. A citizen who had seen the television newscast remembered the tag number, and he was in the parking garage at the -- next to the bottom level. He saw the vehicle, remembered the tag number from the television broadcast, and contacted law enforcement.
The Atlanta Police Department arrived here and confirmed it was the vehicle. We came to the scene, brought in the GBI crime-scene processing team, and they have done an initial examination of the vehicle. They will carry it to Atlanta homicide office, where it will be stored, and it will be an additional search done tomorrow of the vehicle.
We, at this time we do not know what vehicle the suspect is driving. That's what we're attempting to find now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Investigators say they have no idea what kind of vehicle, if any, Brian Nichols may be driving now.
NGUYEN: What started as a typical drive to work for "Atlanta Journal Constitution" reporter Don O'Briant quickly turned terrifying. He came face to face with fugitive Brian Nichols just moments after Nichols allegedly shot and killed three people and wounded another. Here, O'Briant describes that violent chance encounter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just tell us your story.
DON O'BRIANT, ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION: Well, I was driving to work this morning. I went to the Centennial Garage to park, as I usually do, a little after 9:00. And an SUV pulled in right beside me. And a tall black guy gets out with no shirt on and asked for directions to Lenox Square.
I figure he's in town for the basketball tournament, so I start giving him directions. And all of a sudden he pulls the gun and says, Give me your keys. And I don't give them to him. And he says, Give me your keys, or I'll kill you. I gave him the keys. He opens the trunk and said, Get in the trunk. And I said, no. And he said, I'm going to shoot you if you don't get in the trunk.
And so I start to move away, and he hits me with the gun. And I fall down, and then I start scrambling up to my feet and get to Marietta Street to try to find help. And he's not following me, so I figure I'm in the clear.
And when I get to the next corner, I ran into Bruce Rivera (ph), one of our reporters, who says there'd been a -- same guy hijacked a lady's car at this other garage, and the police are asking her questions. So he takes me down there, and I give them a statement and get some medical treatment, and they bring me here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you were...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was your...
O'BRIANT: No, she was hit first.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was hit first, and then came...
O'BRIANT: Yes, and I think he got her car, and then he got another car, the SUV, after that, before he got to my garage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was your reaction once you found out...
O'BRIANT: What was going through my mind...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, what was your reaction once you found out the scope of this whole thing?
O'BRIANT: Afterward, I mean, I would have been even more horrified. I thought this was a routine carjacking, so give him the keys, he'd take the car and leave. But I had no idea he'd already killed somebody.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it your car he has (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the green Honda?
O'BRIANT: Yes. The green Honda, '97 Honda.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What have you told police so far, about the car, about your experience?
O'BRIANT: I just told them what had happened and what -- and gave a as good a description of the car as I could. It's just like every other Honda, unfortunately.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But this Honda is now at the center, at the focus of this huge search that's going on.
O'BRIANT: Yes, I wanted a new car, but this is not the way I wanted to get it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Explain to folks what was kind of going through your mind when he was ordering you in the trunk, and why you...
O'BRIANT: Well, I mean, well, first of all, I was lucky. I had so much stuff in the trunk, I couldn't get in anyway. But I knew that it would not be a good outcome if I got in the trunk.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why do you think he did not fire that gun?
O'BRIANT: I think he was out of bullets, I hope. But I was just thinking, as the gun is in your face, you start thinking of, How can I get out of this alive? And then finally I decided that I would be better off being shot at on the run than staying there and executed. So that's what I did.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don, you've -- have you heard all the events of the day from early on?
O'BRIANT: No, I haven't.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About the judge and the...
O'BRIANT: I did hear about the judge and the deputy and the court reporter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you put all this together in your life and (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
O'BRIANT: Well, I just -- I think I'm extremely lucky, to escape without being shot or thrown in the trunk.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) obviously reporting on this kind of stuff, Don, being involved in it?
O'BRIANT: Well, I usually write about books and media. This is kind of out of my beat here. But I am going to have something in the paper tomorrow about first-person thing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tell us about your injuries. Obviously we can see the bruises and the cuts on your face.
O'BRIANT: Well, the -- I think there are 15 stitches in my -- sort of my eye where he hit me. And then when I fell, I broke my wrist, and it's going to have to have surgery maybe next week or so.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is your family doing right now?
O'BRIANT: Well, they're -- everybody was very good. Everybody was at the hospital today. And I think they can't believe it. It seems like something out of a movie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NGUYEN: Suspect Brian Nichols apparently changed his mind about taking O'Briant's car, because last night, someone noticed that '97 green Honda. It was still in the same packing deck where it was carjacked. We also want to tell you that local affiliates are reporting that Sheriff's Deputy Cynthia Hall is in critical condition. Apparently she was grazed by a bullet as she was escorting Mr. Nichols to the courtroom when he overpowered her, took her gun. She also has some facial wounds. This morning, still in critical condition.
HARRIS: And that's part of the story telling in this morning's "Atlanta Journal Constitution," which, of course, you can find online, an online version at ajc.com.
Let's take a look at the "Journal Constitution" in the aftermath of the deadly violence at the Fulton County Courthouse. Now, under the banner, "Killer Eludes Cops," the lead story has details of yesterday's killings, and the ongoing manhunt for suspect Brian Nichols. Now, a companion piece gives background information, including the fact that improved security was requested after crude weapons, these shanks, two shanks, were found in Nichols' shoes on Wednesday.
NGUYEN: A subhead reports that a judge and two others were gunned down. And then if you look farther down on the page, photos and brief descriptions of those three victims are there on the front page of the "Atlanta Journal Constitution."
HARRIS: Also inside is the first-person account by Don O'Briant, the AJC reporter who was pistol-whipped in a nearby parking garage. O'Briant says he's extremely lucky he wasn't killed when he refused to get into the trunk of a car as the gunman demanded. The reporter writes, "I guess it just wasn't my day to die."
NGUYEN: Definitely a lucky man to live to tell his story.
Triple murder suspect Brian Nichols is now probably the most- wanted man in Georgia.
HARRIS: So what's the story behind the fugitive from justice? And why was he in the court in the first place? The troubled life of 33-year-old Brian Nichols, right here on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.
HARRIS: Let's get you the latest now on the search for a man wanted for killing a judge, a court reporter, and a deputy in Atlanta.
Security cameras show a man who looks like Brian Nichols strolling down the stairs of a parking garage at 9:30 Friday morning. Later, a wooden security gate in that garage was found broken, but there is nothing, again, nothing linking that damage to Nichols.
Fifteen hours later, police found the Honda Accord Nichols carjacked allegedly still inside the garage. The car belongs to a newspaper reporter, who says Nichols was remarkably calm when he stole the car.
NGUYEN: As you have been watching all morning long, we are closely following the manhunt for the courthouse shooter in Atlanta, but there is other news this morning, including some major developments in Syria.
HARRIS: For the latest details on that, let's check in now with Anand Naidoo at the CNN International Desk. Anand, good morning.
ANAND NAIDOO, CNN INTERNATIONAL: Hey, good morning.
Yes, we have a major development out of Syria this morning. The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, is holding a high-level meeting with the Special United Nations Envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen, in the Syrian town of Aleppo.
And what we are hearing is that Assad has given Lassen the assurance that all Syrian military units will be withdrawn from Lebanon. That's one of the demands being made on Syria by the United States, European countries, and some Arab states as well. Lassen says he will present details of a timetable for the pullout to the U.N. secretary general.
Now, we have no details of that timetable yet. We hope to get those details when it is released to the U.N. But this is, nonetheless, a very significant development. Let me remind you that Syria only last week pulled out some of its troops -- or rather all of its troops -- from Lebanon, but pulled them only to the eastern part of country, to the eastern Bekaa Valley.
Now to news of another troop pullout. Ukraine is withdrawing 150 troops from Iraq. The pullout is taking place right now, the defense ministry in Kiev saying the withdrawal is part of their phased pullout, which is expected to be completed by October. Ukraine has more than 1,600 troops in Iraq. And a reminder here that 17 of Ukraine's troops have been killed in Iraq, the worst incident there being last January, when eight troops were killed while they were trying to defuse a bomb.
We will continue to follow developments in Syria and in Ukraine through the day here at CNN, and bring you the latest as it happens.
For now, though, let's send it back to Tony and Betty.
NGUYEN: All right, thanks for staying on top of it, Anand.
HARRIS: You've been following this breaking news story this morning, staying with us. You know this is anything but a slow news day. And there is even weather news to report. We're going to send you...
NGUYEN: Big weather news.
HARRIS: Yes, we're going to send you up now to the CNN Weather Center and gives us an opportunity to say good morning to Rob Marciano, who is following, Rob, with a snowstorm in Boston.
NGUYEN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), yes.
ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Just another snowstorm in Boston. Hi, Tony. Hi, Betty. HARRIS: Good morning.
NGUYEN: Good morning.
NGUYEN: All right. We, of course, are continuing to follow the manhunt, the massive multistate manhunt for Brian Nichols. Stay tuned. We'll have much more. We'll have the latest developments when we come back.
HARRIS: Relatively few people in Atlanta ever heard of Brian Nichols before yesterday's killing spree triggered a massive manhunt. Here's what I've been able to fine out about him from the people who have been dealing with him most recently.
DEPUTY CHIEF ALAN DREHER, ATLANTA POLICE: We're not going to rest until we have him in custody...
HARRIS (voice-over): He's talking about Brian Nichols. Take a close look at this mug shot. Then listen to two jurors from the two Nichols trials describe his eyes. First, a juror from this week's retrial.
JAMES BAILEY, JUROR ON SECOND TRIAL: Every time any of us looked up, we saw him looking at our reaction. So it made us a little nervous. We always kind of looked the other way.
HARRIS: Then this, from a jury member in Nichols' first trial, which ended in a hung jury.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (on phone): Brian Nichols was desperate to not be convicted of these crimes, so he ignored his own defense attorney and sat there and looked us all in the eye and told his story, and...
HARRIS: What was he on trial for?
PAUL HOWARD, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: It involved a case that involved his ex-girlfriend. He broke into the ex-girlfriend's house. She was bound with duct tape. One of the things that he also brought in with him was a loaded machine gun. He did, in fact, assault her. He repeatedly threatened her family, he repeatedly threatened her, and he repeatedly threatened her new boyfriend. So we have no doubt that he is dangerous...
HARRIS: Nichols' own defense attorney saw how things were going for his client.
BARRY HAZEN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I don't think it was going very well. And I thought that they had -- they were presenting a much more muscular case than they had presented the first time. GAYLE ABRAMSON, FULTON COUNTY ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I do think that in his mind, he knew he was going to be convicted this time. And so I think that he was just seeking revenge to the criminal justice system...
HARRIS: It was, for Brian Nichols, his first serious brush with the law. The charges had been brought by the woman with whom he'd had a seven-year relationship. She had even bought a condo for him to live in.
Thirty-three years old, Nichols is a big man, once a linebacker for his college football team. He had worked most recently as a computer technician for a division of UPS.
HAZEN: I didn't get the sense that he could be violent until Thursday morning, when we were told by Judge Barnes that Mr. Nichols had secreted two metal objects in his shoe.
HARRIS: But Barry Hazen, who was late to court, says the talk of security was apparently just that.
HAZEN: After Judge Barnes said there would be beefed-up security in the courtroom, and there was one additional female deputy in the courtroom, that was all.
HARRIS: And what about the judge? Was there anything that could have provoked Nichols? Barry Hazen says Nichols is very, very smart. And one more thing.
HAZEN: He's not my client anymore.
NGUYEN: OK. So when we get back to what may have provoked Nichols, let's talk about that first trial, where there was a hung jury.
HARRIS: OK. And this is coming from the foreperson of the first jury.
HARRIS: Let's keep in mind, two trials here. The first one began at the end of February. It ended in a hung jury. Here's what's important about this -- this is what might be instructive here -- this jury thought the prosecution did a horrible job. The court was -- a terrible job in prosecuting the case against Nichols. And there were a number of jurors who felt all along that Nichols was guilty, but that the state hadn't met its burden...
NGUYEN: Of proof?
HARRIS: ... o proof in the case.
NGUYEN: OK. HARRIS: And for that reason, they could not convict Nichols and send him away for a very long time, for life, because the state had not met its burden. Hung jury.
Now, Nichols believes he's free. The prosecution and the judge in this situation have the option of retrying the case. The judge and the prosecution agreed in short order. Remember. this is a quick turnaround on this case, to retry this case again. And the feeling is, is, that the prosecutors went in, talked to the jurors, gained valuable insights about the prosecution case, and where it fell down, in their opinion, and then...
NGUYEN: So they knew better the next time.
HARRIS: ... and then mounted a much better prosecution case the second time around.
NGUYEN: OK. But when -- I was listening to the juror there talk about how Nichols would watch them...
NGUYEN: ... very carefully, and how that really kind of set off some fear within the jury.
HARRIS: Well, here's -- it made them uneasy. Here's what happened. There was a moment when the defense attorney, Barry Hazen, and Nichols had to make this decision about whether or not Nichols is going to testify in his own defense.
And what happens is, what happens is, is, they decide ultimately that Nichols is going to testify. There are questions that Hazen asks of Nichols, OK, in direct examination. Nichols gives very short, brief answers, and then turns, goes off script, and begins to address the jurors individually, to tell his story to them, making very direct eye contact with each and every one of the jurors individually.
NGUYEN: So that may have been...
HARRIS: And that made them...
NGUYEN: ... the beginning of his frustration.
HARRIS: ... that made them -- that made them...
NGUYEN: Nichols's frustration.
HARRIS: ... a number of them very uneasy.
NGUYEN: Which could have led...
NGUYEN: ... to what happened on Friday.
OK, well, new developments now in the search for Brian Nichols, the suspect in yesterday's courthouse shootings, which happened in downtown Atlanta. Police tell CNN they have gotten some new leads overnight, but they won't say what they are.
Police have been analyzing this security camera footage. Take a look at it right now. It was obtained exclusively by CNN. It apparently shows Nichols in a nearby parking garage shortly after the shootings, which left a judge and two other people dead.
Now, the car that police thought was used in the getaway, a 1997 Honda Accord, that was found last night in the same parking garage where it was taken hours earlier from a newspaper reporter.
The ongoing manhunt for Nichols is very intense at this hour. The state investigator describes it as the biggest in Georgia history.
HARRIS: Big indeed, hundreds of law agents have searched through the night for triple murder suspect Brian Nichols.
Next on CNN SATURDAY MORNING, a live update on the courthouse shooting investigation. We'll be right back.
HARRIS: Pleased to welcome Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington to the set this morning.
All right, chief, good to see you.
CHIEF RICHARD PENNINGTON, ATLANTA POLICE DEPARTMENT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), thank you, glad to be here.
HARRIS: Good to see you (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
We go back a ways, and so I know you'll tell me everything that you can.
PENNINGTON: That's right.
HARRIS: First of all, give me an update on where we stand now in the investigation, and then we'll backtrack and cover a number of issues.
PENNINGTON: OK. Well, last night, probably around 10:00 or so, we retrieved the automobile, the Honda. And so the -- my officers were in the process of processing the crime scene, looking for evidence. And in addition to that, we have gone out and made contact with friends of the suspect, associates, relatives, and people that he's known to hang out with.
PENNINGTON: And so the hunt is still in -- ongoing. We have a task force that we put together with the FBI, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Atlanta Police Department, our fugitive unit, and the Marshal service. And so it's become very intensified in terms of really locating this dangerous criminal so we can take him off the street.
HARRIS: Chief, give me a sense of what you were able to learn from friends and associates. Did they give you, paint any kind of a picture of Brian Nichols, the kind of guy he is, what he is capable of? I think we have an idea of that now.
HARRIS: Of his habits, his patterns?
PENNINGTON: Well, I think what we have been able to ascertain from some of his associates is that he's -- he has a temper at times. And he is the type of person that gets around. He has a lot of friends, and very athletic, and can be very violent, prone to violence. And so we are trying to put all this together.
And then, of course, we've had some people that say some good things about him...
PENNINGTON: ... that, you know, he's mild mannered, and, you know, respectful and et cetera. But all we know at this time is that he's killed three people. And so we have to believe that he's very dangerous. He's armed. He took a weapon from a deputy. And I think at this time we believe that he had taken another weapon, so not only did he take one weapon from one deputy, we believe he took another weapon, second weapon, as well. And so we're still piecing all this information together.
HARRIS: A second weapon?
PENNINGTON: Yes. We believe that.
HARRIS: That's a bit of new information.
PENNINGTON: Yes, it is. It's a bit of new information that we now have learned that not only did he take one, he took two.
And so this is the stuff that we're piecing together now.
And so the information is still coming in. And we know that he left that garage...
HARRIS: Well, let me stop you.
HARRIS: Let me stop you. Let me just recap and frame up this new bit of information. We know that he jumped Sheriff's Deputy Hall and took her weapon.
PENNINGTON: Right. That's right.
HARRIS: And when did he acquire, take this second weapon? PENNINGTON: We think right after he took the first deputy's weapon, he got engaged with another deputy. And we believe that he took that person's weapon too, so...
HARRIS: Before he got to the courtroom?
PENNINGTON: Yes. And so now we believe now that, in fact, we know that he's in possession of two weapons. And so that information came about yesterday evening late, and so we're still putting this information together. And people say, Well, you know, he had one, kept one weapon. He could have possibly ran out of bullets and et cetera.
But now we do know that he had two, two guns.
HARRIS: That's not an assumption to make.
HARRIS: OK. Well, let me take you back to the car, because the question that a lot of folks in this newsroom, and I'm sure a lot of folks are watching...
HARRIS: ... have about the car situation, this is a car, a 1997 Honda Accord.
HARRIS: You had the statement, the brief statement from Don O'Briant.
HARRIS: You knew it was his car.
HARRIS: You had a description and a tag number.
HARRIS: Walk me through the process of trying to find that car, and if that parking garage, the Centennial Garage, had ever been searched. Because we know now that that car was found.
HARRIS: By a private citizen in that garage...
HARRIS: ... where O'Briant was, and where he was pistol-whipped and carjacked.
PENNINGTON: Yes. Well, let me -- I'm going to try to see if I can put that together for you.
PENNINGTON: The car was taken on the upper level, and information that we received was that after the suspect took the automobile from the "AJC" reporter, he exited the garage, and that was the information that we had received.
HARRIS: So the information you received is that he exited the garage with the car.
PENNINGTON: Yes, right, that's right. And that's why...
PENNINGTON: ... we did not go back and search the entire parking garage.
HARRIS: And that didn't necessarily come from O'Briant, but it's information that you learned.
PENNINGTON: No. Right...
PENNINGTON: ... information that we learned that the car was last seen exiting the garage.
And so subsequently, later on that evening, after many of the cars had exited the garage, one of the employees, security employees, located the vehicle down on the lower level.
HARRIS: I see.
PENNINGTON: And so that's what happened. And so we didn't have a reason to believe that the car was still in the garage.
HARRIS: OK. Let me follow up this way...
HARRIS: ...and ask you, once it -- once you learned that the car, the information that led to you believe that the car had actually left the garage...
HARRIS: ... was a team sent, security team from the garage, officers from the Atlanta Police Department, of Fulton County, anyway, was there a team sent into the garage to survey the area? Because this then was also a crime scene.
PENNINGTON: Right. Well, actually, I think what had happened is that once the information was put out that the individual exited the garage, the police responded to the exact location where the reporter was pistol-whipped. HARRIS: I see.
PENNINGTON: And so that part of the garage was processed, that part of the garage was searched. And so when the information went out that the car had exited the garage, then we put a all-points bulletin out throughout the state of Georgia looking for the automobile, because we had reason to believe that the automobile was not there.
PENNINGTON: And so that's why we did not go in and start searching the other floors, because of the information that we received.
HARRIS: All right. Your career starts in Washington, D.C. You're the police chief of New Orleans. And you've done this for a very long time.
HARRIS: Walk me through. This is not the first time you've had a case like this...
PENNINGTON: No, it's not.
HARRIS: ... is what I'm establishing here. So walk me through, step by step. Help our audience understand what it is you do as you are trying to locate this suspect, who you want to get off the street as quickly as possible.
PENNINGTON: Yes, OK. Well, what we do is, we coordinate our efforts with the federal law enforcement agencies, the FBI, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the local jurisdictions, state police, district attorney's office, and the surrounding law enforcement agencies. And we put together a command room, a command operations center.
HARRIS: Is that the Fulton County Command Center?
HARRIS: The first -- OK.
PENNINGTON: That's where it is. Our command center is put in place, where we obtain information, receive information. And we sift through the information and try to develop leads, good leads, good information, so our team of investigators, our fugitive units, can go out and try to locate this dangerous person.
We also go back and try to interview associates, relatives, friends, people that might know this individual's whereabouts. We put all this information together. And meanwhile, we sift through this information. We put it out to our street officers with any kind of pertinent information, the description of the suspect, whether or not he might have another vehicle, whether or not he might be on foot, whether or not he might be going back to his parents' home or girlfriend's home, et cetera. HARRIS: The whole friends and family concept.
PENNINGTON: That's right, that's what we're doing.
HARRIS: All right. Let me ask you this. Don O'Briant reports, in his first-person account of this, that Nichols asked him about Lenox Square Mall, a very big, very posh mall, here in the Atlanta area.
HARRIS: He wanted directions to the mall. Is there any significance in that?
PENNINGTON: Well, we don't know that. We're trying to ascertain whether or not he could have gone up around the mall area, whether or not he could have caught the MARTA train to go up there. And so all this information, we're still kind of going through. We have not been able to determine why he asked that question.
HARRIS: Have you deployed officers?
PENNINGTON: Yes, yes, yes. We deployed officers to the mall. We're in the process of looking to see whether or not there are any reported cars that might have been stolen in the mall area. We are looking at whether or not there are any similar carjackings reported. We have not received any information about carjackings around the mall or anything like that.
So all this information is still put into one command center. And we have to, you know, kind of sift through the information.
PENNINGTON: We get good information, we get bad information, so...
HARRIS: I'm curious, I'm sure your office has seen the surveillance video from CNN.
PENNINGTON: Well, they're still looking at it.
HARRIS: They're still looking at it now.
HARRIS: I'm curious, DOT video, any other -- I'm thinking of other businesses that might have surveillance video. Are you also trying to corral as much surveillance video as you can?
PENNINGTON: Actually, we are. You have to realize, when we discovered the vehicle, it was late in the evening. So that meant we would have had to gone back at least 12 hours' worth of looking, you know, at the prior video.
So my investigators are doing that. They are going back to see if there's any correlation between him getting into another vehicle, or whatever he did when he left that garage. So we're in the process of looking at that. Any other kind of videos that might have been available around the courthouse or somewhere.
HARRIS: OK. You mentioned the number of leads and tips and information. It's just flooding into the command center right now.
HARRIS: I'm curious. I talked to an officer earlier this morning who suggested it might be just a little bit too much, that it may be sending you up some blind alleys, and in some ways hindering the investigation. Let me just have you comment on that. Are you, the quality of information, the amount of information, is it in any way hindering your efforts?
PENNINGTON: I don't really believe so. I don't think it's hindered our efforts. I think what happens is that when people see a reward flashed up on the television, and it says $60,000, we get calls. I thought I saw a person that fit that description, or, I saw a person in a Honda driving down the street. We get those kind of calls.
But I think, as people start to realize that the reward is $60,000, we are going to start to get some pretty good information.
PENNINGTON: Because that's the good thing about rewards, is that people will call and give you information, especially about a violent person such as this.
HARRIS: Let me ask you to respond to the suggestion that perhaps he carjacked someone else, and perhaps has a hostage. Have you received any information that you would consider good information to lead you to believe that he may have, Brian Nichols may have a hostage right now?
PENNINGTON: Well, we haven't received any information as of this morning about anyone that is missing. And so we don't have reason to believe that that's occurred at this time. It doesn't mean that it hasn't, because a person this violent could very well left and carjacked another person, put them in the trunk of a car, and maybe loved ones or relatives just haven't called us yet.
But as of this moment, we have not received any information about anyone that's missing or any cars that are missing at this time.
HARRIS: Part of your job is to be a shrink, as well.
PENNINGTON: Yes, that's true.
HARRIS: To the extent you can, put us into this man's head, Brian Nichols' head. And give us a sense of, we're coming up on, well, it's 24 hours, it's more than 24 hours now. His sense of desperation. PENNINGTON: Yes.
HARRIS: Food, money, sleep.
PENNINGTON: Well, I think probably that he's very desperate. He's probably scared, because he knows that we have his picture plastered all over the news throughout the United States. He knows that he's killed a law enforcement officer. He's killed a judge. So he's a wanted man, and he knows that law enforcement will continue to hunt him down.
PENNINGTON: And so he knows that the information about him is that he's armed and dangerous, and that law enforcement is going to do everything possible to track him down and bring him to justice.
And so I'm sure what's going through his mind is that, either one or two things. I'm going to not be taken alive, or at some point I'm going to have to turn myself in and give up, because the search will not stop.
HARRIS: Let's hope it's the latter.
All right, my friend, I'll be calling you in the days following your officers picking him up. And let's talk about the anatomy of this investigation...
PENNINGTON: All right.
HARRIS: ... how you were able to apprehend him.
PENNINGTON: OK. Appreciate it. Thanks for having me.
HARRIS: Good to see you, Chief.
PENNINGTON: All right, I'll see you.
HARRIS: We'll take a break and come back with more of this special edition of CNN SATURDAY MORNING right after this.
NGUYEN: Welcome back to our continuing coverage today.
The hunt for the suspect in the Atlanta courthouse shooting rampage continues this morning. And CNN will bring you the latest.
But first, here are some of other stories that we're also following today.
Word coming from Syria this morning, a U.N. envoy met with President Bashar Assad, and he says Assad is committed to a full Syrian troop pullout from Lebanon. The envoy says he expects Syria to present a timetable in the next few days. In Iraq, a U.S. soldier has been killed in what the military calls a nonhostile accident. It happened in the western province of Al Anbar. The military says the soldier died during a security operation, but it wouldn't give any more details.
And finally, all you college hopefuls, get ready. The newly redesigned SAT, well, it debuts today. The test is 45 minutes longer, unfortunately, and, for the first time, it features an essay question.
HARRIS: Betty, let me just cut in for just a little bit of breaking news that we're just getting in to CNN.
A U.S. Customs agent based here in Atlanta has been found shot and killed. We understand that the customs agent's gun and badge, we're just getting this in, are missing. No information now directly tying this latest shooting and killing to Brian Nichols. But once again, according to the Associated Press, this just into CNN, a U.S. Customs agent was found today shot and killed on Lenox Road in Atlanta.
We will continue to gather information. Chief Pennington is -- and Betty, and you have more information?
NGUYEN: Yes, I want to step in just briefly, because that agent's '94 blue Chevy pickup truck, a Ford truck with the Georgia license plate APG 612, is missing. And so that is another thing that we want to put out there for those on the road, those listening, a '94 blue pickup truck with Georgia license plate APG 612, is missing. It is connected, 6121. That is APG 6121. Now, it is connected to that U.S. Customs agent...
PENNINGTON: ... who was found killed today on Lenox Road, is that what we're reporting?
HARRIS: And on Lenox Road.
And I just want to also add that Chief Pennington, once he received this news from us, left our set and is working his sources, obviously, to try to confirm this further and get us more information on this.
But we are reporting what AP, the Associated Press, is reporting right now, and that is that a U.S. Customs agent has been found shot and killed on Lenox Road here in Atlanta. We don't know the exact location here in Atlanta. It sounds like -- just us being Atlanta residents right now -- it may be in the Buckhead section of Atlanta. Don't know that for sure right now. But Lenox Road runs through that area.
We will continue to gather information on this.
And the other important point to mention right now is that there is nothing at this moment to link this shooting and killing to Brian Nichols. But, as you know, Brian Nichols is very much on the run right now, as Chief Pennington just mentioned to us. He is in the possession of two firearms right now, and...
NGUYEN: And possibly a third, with this U.S. Customs agent's that...
HARRIS: If -- if we -- if there -- if we develop information that links...
HARRIS: ... to this...
NGUYEN: But, you know, an...
HARRIS: ... shooting.
NGUYEN: ... an interesting thing to point out right now, and, of course, it's no concrete link, but when the carjacking occurred, with that 1997 blue Honda Accord, which was the car of an "AJC," the "Atlanta Journal Constitution" reporter, when he spoke with that owner of the car, and I'm talking about Brian Nichols, the suspect here, the first thing that he said was, Where is Lenox Mall? How do you get there?
And so, and then now, we're getting information that this U.S. Customs agent has been shot and killed on Lenox Road. Now, of course, there's no concrete connection between the two, but very...
NGUYEN: ... interesting that this has occurred this morning...
HARRIS: It's a very interesting...
NGUYEN: ... right after the shootings yesterday.
HARRIS: ... very curious set of circumstances right here.
And to follow up on that, we asked Chief Pennington just a moment ago if there was any significance, if there was anything in the information gathering so far that suggested that when Nichols asked O'Briant about directions to Lenox Square, he was, in fact, heading in that direction. What Chief Pennington told us is that there was nothing that they have uncovered to suggest that he had gone into that area.
And it's important, because the Lenox Mall runs along Peachtree Street, Road...
NGUYEN: Peachtree and Lennox. HARRIS: Yes. There's -- they come together at a corner, Lenox and Peachtree come together, if you know anything about Atlanta, come together in a corner, and the mall...
NGUYEN: Is right there.
HARRIS: ...takes up much of that area.
And so there is nothing right now, according to Chief Pennington, that -- to suggest that he actually went to Lenox Mall. But you're right in mentioning the fact that this is a very curious set of coincidences at this point.
NGUYEN: And just to recap for those of you joining us this morning, we do have some new developments. Again, we do not know if it is linked to Brian Nichols, who is on the run, the man accused in the courthouse shootings yesterday. But this morning, we have learned, according to the Associated Press, that a U.S. Customs agent has been shot and killed on Lenox Road. His '94 blue Chevy pickup truck is missing. Also missing, his gun and his badge.
That pickup truck, for those of you who are listening, may be heading out on the road. The Georgia license plate is APG 6121.
HARRIS: You know, I'm hesitant to -- it -- we were mentioning that this is a curious set of circumstances. But when you think about it, take a moment and just take a breath and think about it, this is a situation where this is a man who is obviously desperate, obviously on the run, as we've learned, has two firearms right now. And as you mentioned, did make a reference to Lenox Square Mall and wanting directions to that area.
But I am hesitant to, to, to...
NGUYEN: Yes, no, yes, no concrete connection.
HARRIS: Because we don't have that concrete connection.
What we'll do now is, we'll take a break, catch our breath, and try to gather more information. We'll be right back with this special edition of CNN SATURDAY MORNING.
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