A police officer was shot outside the Forsyth County Courthouse, just north of Atlanta Friday morning. The extent of the officer's injuries are not immediately known, but one person was taken to a nearby hospital.
FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. -- A suspect was killed by police after shooting a sheriff's deputy in the leg outside the Forsyth County Courthouse Friday morning.
Police identified the suspect as 48-year-old Dennis Ronald Marx, a gun trader. Investigators believe Marx had been planning the courthouse shooting for a long time.
Forsyth County Sheriff Duane Piper said the incident began at around 10 a.m., when Marx drove up onto the sidewalk in front of the courthouse and threw spike strips and explosives out the car window, then began shooting through the windshield with an assault rifle. Police returned fire, shooting Marx multiple times and killing him. The gunfire lasted approximately a minute and a half.
The suspect was carrying grenades, homemade explosive devices, water, zip ties and several magazines of ammunition. Piper said his body still has multiple explosives on it.
Ann Shafer, one of Marx's attorneys, told 11Alive News her client was arrested over a year ago on charges of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and firearm possession by a convicted felon. He was scheduled to appear in court Friday morning to enter a plea, but did not show up.
Shafer left the courthouse after waiting for Marx for about 40 minutes; as she walked out, she heard gunshots and said she wondered whether her client was responsible.
She is the suspect's second attorney in this case; his first attorney is Manny Arora, a well-known criminal defense lawyer. Marx retained Arora and Shafer after his original attorney, Jim Hardy, was diagnosed with cancer.
Shafer described Marx as "slightly unstable" at times.
"I find people remarkable in their reactions to the legal business," Shafer said of her feelings upon learning her client was a suspect in the shooting. "I feel very lucky that I walked out the back of the courthouse instead of the front."
She added that she was very concerned for her safety, as she and Arora have had some unsettling interactions with Marx, and said the suspect made "veiled threats" against her.
Marx was no stranger to the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office. Piper said deputies have had many run-ins with him.
The deputy who was hurt in Friday's incident was taken to a nearby hospital with a gunshot wound just below the knee and is expected to make a full recovery. Piper said the victim is a 30-year veteran of the sheriff's office.
Witness Oscar Grandos, who was in the courthouse during the incident, told 11Alive News he heard a series of gunshots and saw several police officers "carrying big guns" running outside. He said people inside the courthouse were moved to a nearby restaurant as police investigated the shooting.
As Marx had several explosives on his person, a bomb squad was called. Police expanded the crime scene as they brought in a robot to aid their search.
The area was secured approximately two hours later.
"We want to make sure citizens know that the area has been secured at this time," Piper said in a release. "There should be no further danger to the public."
Marx's house on Lakeside Trail near Bald Ridge Marina Road in Cumming is also contained, but may be rigged with booby-traps. Police said it appears he had not been home for at least 10 days.
Businesses near the courthouse are on lockdown as police investigate. At least one woman from a nearby business was transported to a nearby hospital with unknown injuries.
Locked-down businesses include A-1 Phillips Painting, Sal's Place Italian Restaurant, Myers James CPA, Vanderhoff & Millisor, BC Engineering and the Wells Fargo branch across the street from the courthouse. The courthouse itself and Cumming City Hall are also on lockdown. There is no estimated time on when everything will be reopened.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was called in to help Cumming Police and the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office investigate the shooting.