LAWRENCEVILLE - Seven months after a shooting rampage left three dead at the Fulton County Courthouse, bomb-sniffing dogs will sweep Gwinnett's courthouse and security will be clamped down.
The dogs will search for weapons today, and the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center will be fully secure Monday, sheriff's officials said.
"We want to make sure this facility is completely safe before we lock it down and begin providing security for the entire building," Sheriff Butch Conway said. "I appreciate the assistance we are receiving from other agencies who are providing their bomb dogs to assist our K-9 Bleck."
While sheriff's deputies have screened people who enter courtrooms for more than a decade, citizens have been free to roam the center's government offices and lobby.
Conway sought to provide greater security since he entered office 12 years ago, but county officials wanted to keep the building as open to the public as possible.
That is, until judges made an emotional plea after the March 11 tragedy in Atlanta.
Brian Nichols, who was on trial for rape, allegedly overpowered deputies and shot a judge, a court reporter and a deputy. He is accused of later killing a customs agent before he was captured in Duluth.
"I know I sound hysterical, but I'm scared. We just learned a horrible tragic lesson," Superior Court Judge Melodie Snell Conner said in March.
"This is essential government service," she continued. "It's essential we protect the citizens who come to this building and the employees."
In order to upgrade security at the justice center, officials had to buy cameras and metal detectors and hire additional deputies.
Langley Drive has been closed in front of the courthouse, and on Monday, deputies will begin screening visitors at the center's front and back entrances.
Later, the county will build an atrium outside the center's front entrance in order to shelter those waiting to go through metal detectors.
Beginning Monday, the front doors in the main lobby will be the primary entrance for the general public, and citizens will not be allowed inside the building until 8 a.m. Those reporting for jury duty will be allowed inside early due to the 7:30 a.m. reporting time for jurors, but a juror must show proper documentation before he or she will be allowed inside the building.
Weapons are prohibited in the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. This includes firearms, explosives, pocket knives, pepper spray and any sharp objects. Prohibited items must be returned to the owner's vehicle or disposed of in provided containers.