Hours after a gunman shot a Forsyth County sheriff’s deputy in the leg, the investigation continued at both the county’s courthouse and the suspect’s home. After Deputy Daniel Rush was shot, other deputies who heard the commotion rushed to stop the alleged shooter, Dennis Marx. Marx died at the scene.
According to Sheriff Duane Piper, Marx began firing an AR15 and had two handguns as he drove up the courthouse walkway, where Deputy Daniel Rush was making a routine sweep of the courthouse lawn. Piper credited Rush with helping prevent other injuries.
“If that deputy had not done what he did, then yes, he (Marx) would have got in the courthouse,” Piper said.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporters and photographers spent hours at the scene gathering information. Return to ajc.com for minute-by-minute updates on the situation.
7:30 p.m. - Forsyth County Sheriff Duane Piper said investigators found one more bomb on the body of Dennis Marx, accused of shooting a deputy in the leg. Marx’s home contained a number of homemade explosive devices, Piper said. The search of the house is expected to continue throughout the night, and it will be many hours before downtown Cumming roads re-open. Piper will hold a briefing at 10 a.m. Saturday.
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4:15 p.m. - Sheriff Duane Piper said the injured deputy has a broken fibula and tibia and is in surgery. “He saved several lives today,” Piper said of the deputy. The GBI, FBI, ATF and local deputies were at the suspect’s house, but have not made entry yet, Piper said. Investigators are being cautious due to the possibility of booby traps.
3:35 p.m. - Deputy Daniel Rush was enough of a hero Friday to even make his ex-wife proud.
“It surprised me and it scared me but I’m really proud of him,” Jennifer Rush told The Atlanta Journal Constitution today. “He is a hero in my book.”
The deputy took a bullet in the leg today when he stopped Dennis Marx from entering the courthouse in what the sheriff described as an attempted armed takeover.
Jennifer Rush said her ex-husband always took his job seriously as a deputy and it paid off today for a whole courthouse full of people. She understood he was shot in the shin which broke his leg and he was taken into surgery.
She hasn’t had a chance to talk to him yet, but she planned to as soon as things calmed down. “It’s been so crazy right now,” she said. “The sheriff’s office should be glad they have somebody like Daniel working for them.”
3:25 p.m. - The deputy injured has been identified as Daniel Rush.
2:35 p.m. - The courthouse and roads around it remain closed while the investigation continues.
1:30 p.m. - The sheriff’s office has posted the following message on the department’s Facebook page:
“We appreciate your patience and understanding while we collect the facts surrounding the Courthouse shooting that took place this morning. The downtown area and streets surrounding the Courthouse will be closed until further. The suspect was shot and is deceased at this time. A deputy was injured during the exchange of gun fire and is expected to be okay. No citizens or bystanders were injured. We will provide further information as it becomes available.”
1:14 p.m. - Deputies have still not cleared county employees to return to the courthouse and administration building to retrieve personal items.
1:10 p.m. - A deputy on the scene notified dispatchers to ask the county road department to have a dump truck loaded with dirt meet the GBI Bomb Squad at the courthouse. The deputy also requested two five-gallon buckets.
12:55 p.m. - Forsyth Sheriff Duane Piper released more details of the moments leading up to this morning’s courthouse shooting. He said suspect Dennis Marx was throwing out homemade smoke grenades, pepper spray grenades and homemade spike sticks in an effort to keep law enforcement personnel from stopping his approach to the courthouse.
12:52 p.m. - Forsyth Sheriff Duane Piper said it will probably be several hours before authorities clear the scene at the courthouse.
12:46 p.m. - Forsyth Sheriff Duane Piper said the actions of the wounded deputy, who was working the doorway of the courthouse when he saw Dennis Marx drive up, likely saved many lives. “It would be a guess to think how many lives he saved had he not engaged him right there,” Piper said. “Mr. Marx’s intention was to get inside that front door and to take hostages.”
12:39 p.m. - Suspect Dennis Marx had not been living in his house for 10 days. Deputies are searching that house now for explosives and booby traps. Sheriff Duane Piper said Marx “was known to us before. Quite a few things are under investigation right now.” He said many of the explosives that Marx was carrying were homemade. “He had been planning it for a while,” Piper said.
12:36 p.m. - Piper said suspect Marx was armed with multiple explosives and lots of ammunition on himself and inside the car. He also had water, supplies and “zip-tie” restraining devices. “He came for the purpose of occupying the courthouse,” the sheriff said.
12:21 p.m. - A law enforcement official familiar with the situation said explosives are suspected because Marx is a “sovereign citizen” well-known to local authorities. They are concerned about explosives because sovereign citizens are known to be involved with explosives.
12:18 p.m. - Sheriff Piper tells Channel 2 that as he drove up to the courthouse, Marx threw out “stop sticks” so no one could get to him. A deputy who then engaged Marx, and Marx shot the deputy in the leg through the windshield of the SUV, according to Piper. He said the Forsyth SWAT team was en route to a separate incident and made it to the scene in 37 seconds.
12:15 p.m. - The sheriff has confirmed to Channel 2 that the suspect is Dennis Marx. The station reports that Marx has identified himself as a sovereign citizen, part of an anti-government group that has been tied to violent attacks on law enforcement around the country. He was due in court today to plead out on drug and weapons charges.
12:12 p.m. - Witnesses are being sent to Cumming City Hall to be interviewed.
12:10 p.m. - Forsyth sheriff’s spokeswoman Karleen Chalker released the following statement:
“A shooting took place at the Forsyth County Courthouse in Cumming, Ga. at approximately 9:57 a.m. today. The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office continues to be on the scene with the assistance of the Ga. Bureau of Investigation. The area in the courthouse square has been secured. The roadways surrounding the courthouse continue to be closed. There is no estimation as to when roadways will be reopened.
“We want to make sure citizens know that the area has been secured at this time,” said Sheriff Piper. There should be no further danger to the public, added the Sheriff. Deputies are continuing to canvas the area around the courthouse for any possible explosives as a precaution.
12:08 p.m. - GBI director Vernon Keenan said agents believe there’s possibly a grenade on the scene.
12:03 p.m. - Witness Jason Leonard told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that after driving up to the courthouse steps, the suspect “actually jumped out of the vehicle with a rifle in his hand, unloaded the rifle, and that’s when the officers unloaded on him.” Leonard estimated that he heard a total of about 50 gunshots.
11:46 a.m. - A sheriff’s sergeant is heard on the radio asking other deputies to tell news crews set up near the courthouse to “stop filming and put their news vehicles out of sight of the front of the courthouse.”
11:43 a.m. - A Gwinnett K9 unit has arrived at the scene.
11:42 a.m. - Witness Kim Stephens of Cumming tells The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she was sitting at a traffic light on West Main Street when she “heard popping noises” and saw an SUV pull up to the front steps of the courthouse. About two minutes later, “all the police started coming and there were a few more shots.” She said the SUV appeared to be a Nissan Pathfinder or Armada with tinted windows. “It was on the courthouse as far as it could go — up to the stairs.”
11:41 a.m. - Gwinnett bomb squad on site. Searching for possible explosives in the Square.
11:35 a.m. - Buses are being brought in to shuttle employees of the courthouse and the county administration building to their cars in satellite lots. The sheriff plans a news conference for later.
11:33 a.m. - Courthouse employees are being instructed to go to their cars and leave the area.
11:31 a.m. - A Gwinnett County bomb squad and hazmat unit are en route to Cumming.
11:30 a.m. - A sheriff’s official described the incident as a planned “full frontal assault.”
11:22 a.m. - The wounded deputy has been transported to North Fulton Hospital.
11:20 a.m. - Bomb-sniffing dogs are en route to the scene, according to deputies.
11:18 a.m. - Channel 2 is reporting more details about the moments before suspect was shot. A Forsyth deputy working at a courthouse door saw the suspect from a distance. The suspect was wearing a gas mask and a bulletproof vest, and was carrying a smoke grenade and an assault rifle. The deputy saw him coming and came out to try to stop the suspect, who possibly had a court hearing scheduled for today.
11:16 a.m. - Channel 2 reports that the suspect was shot after approaching the courthouse wearing a mask and carrying grenades.
11:14 a.m. - Agents from the GBI are also now on the scene.
11:10 a.m. - A call went out from deputies for a medical unit for “a 50-year-old female having a panic attack.” Meanwhile, deputies reported that Georgia State Patrol units were en route for traffic control in the area.
11:09 a.m. - Deputies report that businesses on Main Street “have been cleared.”
11:04 a.m. - Construction crews working on a new multi-story county building under construction across the street from the courthouse have also been evacuated.
11 a.m. - Deputies have reported to the command center that the courthouse has been evacuated, and deputies continue to search the building for “secondary [explosive] devices.”
— Please return for updates.
— Reporters and photographers Rhonda Cook, Christian Boone, John Spink Jr., Ben Gray, Steve Visser and Mike Morris contributed to this report.