I was sitting in the 114th District Court when a muffled, ratting noise came from the second-story windows.

A group of hysterical people ran into the courtroom shouting, "Oh my God, someone's got a gun. Get down. They're shooting in the courthouse!"

Since we were in the midst of a capital murder convict's hearing, some thought the gunman could be coming to us. About half a dozen deputies left the room, with weapons drawn, to investigate and state District Judge Cynthia Stevens Kent fled to her chambers.

We didn't know what was happening. The rapid fire was deafening and seemed to last several minutes.

We were ordered to hit the floor. At the advice of prosecutors, most of us ran and crammed in behind the judge's bench. A news cameraman continued capturing the action.

It seemed like an eternity before the gunshots subsided. Then came silence. The not knowing was nerve-racking. We were shocked and scared of what might lay ahead.

About 15 minutes after the mayhem, speculation on the wounded and dead came filtering in from people entering the courtroom. At least two dead, possibly an officer. I worried it might be someone I knew.

We learned the gunman had shot up the first floor from outside of the courthouse before fleeing. We were evacuated while the first floor was being treated as a crime scene. Broken glass littered the floor, along with red cups strategically placed to mark evidence. Police equipped with notepads were swarming, beginning their investigation.

Amid the commotion, witnesses mingled with the curious.

At the time, I sat in that courthouse covering cases for the newspaper nearly every day. In the more than five years of covering courts, that remains by far the most horrifying and dramatic thing I have ever experienced.

 

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