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Deputy alleges security violations in Atlanta courthouse shooting

Associated Press Writer

Read Chuck Remsberg's related PoliceOne column, “The Lessons of Atlanta”

ATLANTA- The deputy overpowered by the alleged gunman in last year's courthouse shooting filed a complaint Thursday alleging that the county violated security policies.

Cynthia Hall was brutally beaten while escorting Brian Nichols to a courtroom where he was on trial for rape on March 11, 2005. Nichols is accused of taking Hall's gun and killing a judge and court reporter who were presiding over his trial, as well as a deputy and a federal agent.

The Fulton County Sheriff's Department command knew of the risks associated with Nichols and ignored them, the complaint alleges.

Hall's superiors did not view metal shanks found in Nichols' shoes before the attacks as dangerous, and they did not attempt to tell deputies or take additional security measures, according to the complaint.

It also alleges that the two men assigned to surveillance cameras were not at their posts when Hall was attacked, and that one of them had been sent to retrieve a supervisor's breakfast.

"This systematic failure of accountability jeopardized the lives of all those in the courthouse that day," the complaint said.

Hall will follow up with a $3 million lawsuit unless she is satisfied with Fulton County's response to the claim, her lawyer Brandon Hornsby said.

Under state law, the county has 30 days to address the complaint.

The county will not comment until it has investigated, deputy county attorney Willie Lovett said.

"We recognize that it was a tragedy, and we sympathize with all the victims," he said.

Hall suffered a brain injury and still has speech and cognitive-processing problems, cannot drive and cannot work, Hornsby said. He said the county also recently canceled her health insurance _ something Lovett said he had no information about.

Hall receives $450 a week in state workers' compensation, an amount Hornsby called "wholly inadequate when you have a single mother with a brain injury with children."

In a videotaped statement, Hall said the only thing she remembered from the attack was leading Nichols up an elevator to the holding area where he was to change clothes for his trial. The next thing she knew, she was having surgery days later.

Hall said she misses her work.

"I want to be working. I like being hard at work," Hall said slowly during the five-minute video, which was taped a week ago and played by Hornsby when he announced the complaint.

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