ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) -- March 11 marks 15 years since Brian Nichols went on a deadly shooting spree as he escaped from the Fulton County courthouse.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, Executive Assistant District Attorney Clint Rucker and DA's Office Chief Investigator Cynthia Nwokocha spoke with CBS46 about where they were that day, what they remember, and how they feel looking back on the tragic day 15 years later.

Howard said he was on the way to a doctor's appointment when he got the call that there was a shooting. He turned right around and went back to the courthouse and up to his office, not not knowing what he may be walking into.

"Even at that time we didn’t know where Brian Nichols was," Howard said.

Nwokocha had just taken people to Grady Hospital for an interview when they saw on TV there was a shooting at the courthouse. They rushed back.

"Everybody at that time, all law enforcement, we could not communicate with each other, we had our radios but everybody had their own frequency, own channels that went with their own agencies," she said.

"Myself and a couple of other investigators went over to different courtrooms to get the attorneys out to come back to the office," she recalled.

Rucker was prosecuting another case in another courtroom at the time of the shooting.

"Several deputies rushed into the courtroom very suddenly and kind of disrupted court and immediately went and got the judge," he said. "Everyone was bewildered and really, really shocked. Nobody could really figure out what was going on for several minutes. It was several minute later when over the radio we kind of learned that a judge had been shot in the courthouse.”

Rucker and others had to wait in the courtroom for hours before they were later released.

"It was agonizing not getting any information, not really knowing what was going on, not knowing where the shooter was within the building," he said. "I do recall walking back to the office from the courtroom realizing that Judge Barnes and Julie had been killed that the courthouse was eerily silent. Normally it’s abuzz with activity.”

Not only do they mourn the lives lost that day, some of whom were their friends, but Howard said he later discovered he was also one of Nichols' intended targets.

Howard said when Nichols was later in the Fulton County Jail, he had a plan to escape with another inmate, but the other inmate reported the plan. Authorities discovered letters Nichols had written that contained chilling information.

"In the letter Brian Nichols stated that after he shot the judge and the court reporter that he was headed for the third floor to kill Paul Howard," said Howard. "In his own words he said that he got lost and so he couldn’t figure out how to get form where he killed Judge Barnes to the DA’s Office but he knew it was on the third floor.”

Those who work in the courthouse are sometimes reminded of that day 15 years ago.

Howard said, "We often see fights and flare-ups in the courthouse and every time that happens, and I know it happens to me and the other employees, you kind of hesitate for a moment because we’re wondering, is this happening again here in Fulton County?" 

"What we really need to ask ourselves: are we any better, is the security any better, than it was before? Could we prevent the same thing from happening again?” he said.

Rucker went on to prosecute Nichols for the murders. He's spending the rest of his life in prison.

Rucker said, "I get the feeling of satisfaction knowing that he is exactly where he deserves to be."


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