By Michelle Guffey
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON Bell County Courthouse officials expressed shock over the killing of a superior court judge, court reporter and sheriff's deputy in Atlanta Friday morning.
Judge Martha Trudo of the 264th District said she heard about the incident 30 minutes after it happened.
"I was shocked to hear about it," she said. "We're all concerned about security in and around the courthouse."
Trudo said she didn't understand why the defendant wasn't in handcuffs, unless he was out on bond.
At the Bell County District Courthouse, when a suspect is on trial for a violent crime, the defendant has to wear a knee brace under his civilian clothes that automatically locks into place when he stands up, preventing the defendant from running, Trudo said.
Juge Rick Morris of the 146th District Court said that what happens in a district court is emotional.
"It can be a dangerous and volatile place," he said.
Morris described an incident that took place in his courtroom last year.
The judge, who normally hears civil and domestic cases, was presiding over a criminal trial when the defendant tossed the counsel table in the air and ran for the back door. The defendant was tackled by several deputies.
"It was a situation that could have gone bad," Morris said.
Morris said what happened in Atlanta is a sad situation that makes him fretful for his staff and, after what happened in Chicago last week with the killing of a judge's family, Morris is fretful for his family as well.
"I'm thinking we need to get into our new courthouse soon," he said.
The new courthouse will have enhanced security features, much like security at an airport with metal detectors and X-ray machines.
"The way we stand now I have no problem with deputies being armed in the courtroom," he said.
Judge Trudo said she has confidence in the deputies at the courthouse, although she feels that security measures could be tighter.
"We are fortunate that we haven't had something like this happen," she said of the Atlanta shootings.
"It's a tragedy that (our society) has come to this."
Sheriff's deputies who asked not to be named said that what happened in Atlanta shouldn't have happened. All wondered how the defendant got the deputy's gun.
One deputy speculated that maybe the deputy was walking in front of the defendant instead of walking behind him while escorting him in.
Assistant District Attorney Nelson Barnes said what happened in Atlanta was a tragedy.
"You're dealing with bad people," he said. "Bad people can make things happen."
Contact Michelle Guffey at firstname.lastname@example.org