Georgia courthouse shooter had explosives, assault rifle, sheriff says

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Friday, June 6, 2014 - 6:55pm

A man armed with explosives and an assault rifle might have entered a north Georgia courthouse Friday if not for a deputy who was wounded in the shootout with the gunman, Forsyth County Sheriff Duane Piper said.

Authorities killed Dennis Marx outside the courthouse, Piper said during a news conference, adding that the gunman planned to wreak more havoc once inside the building.

"Mr. Marx's intention was to get in that front door and take hostages," he said.

Authorities don't know why.

A witness' video shows officers, guns drawn, closing in on a silver Nissan SUV on a wide walkway in front of the courthouse. Orange smoke spews from a device near the vehicle.

A shot rings out, then another. Two more shots are fired before a 15-second torrent of gunshots. Dozens of officers then surround the vehicle, as three construction workers peek out from behind their backhoe at a construction site across the street.

Piper said the suspect began a "full frontal assault" on the building by driving up, throwing out "homemade spike strips" to delay any police response, and trying to run over a deputy, Piper said.

The deputy opened fire, and Marx returned fire through his windshield, hitting the deputy in the leg, the sheriff said. He also threw smoke bombs and gas grenades -- perhaps using pepper gas -- during the attack, according to the sheriff. Other explosive devices and "a lot of ammunition" were found on him and in his vehicle, he said.

Deputies, some from inside the courthouse, engaged in a roughly 90-second shootout with Marx, killing him, Piper said.

"The SWAT team, which happened to be close by on their way to another function, also pulled up about 30 seconds into this gunfire fight and they engaged Mr. Marx, and Mr. Marx is dead with multiple gunshot wounds," the sheriff said.

The wounded deputy, identified by local media as James Daniel Rush, was shot while stopping Marx before he could get inside. The sheriff said later Friday afternoon that the deputy underwent surgery for fractures to his fibula and tibia in the lower leg, injuries he described as not life-threatening.

The situation "was solved (with) that deputy's actions," Piper said of the 30-year veteran.

"He had been in the courthouse for a good part of his time, and part of his duties were to sweep the outside of the courthouse and he happened to have been out there doing that when Mr. Marx came up," the sheriff said.

Marx was scheduled to attend a hearing at the Forsyth County Courthouse on Friday, where he was expected to enter a plea on a drug-related charge, a news release said.

The sheriff said Marx had flex ties and water in his possession.

"He came prepared to stay a while," the sheriff said. "We don't know who he was coming to the courthouse for, but with the flex ties and the restraining devices he had with him ... we have to assume that he was there to occupy the courthouse."

Marx's home in Cumming, about 35 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta, was cleared by early Friday evening, a law enforcement source said. Homemade explosives were found in his Georgia residence, but it's not clear whether those were attempted booby traps, which Piper said authorities had expected.

As to Marx himself, authorities haven't offered much detail.

A preliminary investigation indicated that he hadn't been at his Cumming home for about 10 days.

And he did once work at the Transportation Security Administration, the federal agency that oversees airport security, a U.S. official said. Marx began working at TSA on October 20, 2002, according to the official, and it's believed he was out in either 2003 or 2004.

-- CNN's Pamela Brown, Aaron Cooper, Vivian Kuo, Marlena Baldacci and MaryLynn Ryan contributed to this report.

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