Jan Lopez got the idea not long after her fellow court reporter, Julie Ann Brandau, was killed in the Fulton County courthouse shootings on March 11, 2005.
When Lopez, a court reporter in Los Angeles, learned that Brandau loved dogs she asked court reporters nationwide to begin raising money to sponsor rescue dogs in Brandau’s name.
On Friday, during a brief ceremony at the Fulton courthouse, two firefighters — Chet Clark from Oklahoma City and Laurel Pitman from Dallas — presented a plaque to courthouse officials in appreciation of what has been accomplished. So far, court reporters have donated more than $85,000 to train eight rescue dogs that have been deployed to find survivors of catastrophes in Haiti, Japan and across the U.S.
Throughout the ceremony, two of those rescue dogs, Sonic and Elvis, barked enthusiastically.
Said Lopez, “We are proud to honor Julie’s two passions — her love of dogs and her giving spirit.”
The dogs were taken from animal shelters before they could be euthanized and then trained to find people who have been buried alive. It costs about $10,000 to train each dog, Lopez said.
Brandau, 46, loved her golden retriever, Heidi, who often sat in the passenger’s seat as Brandau drove through town. Brandau, a court reporter for Fulton Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes, was killed by Brian Nichols after he escaped from custody.
Nichols, on trial for rape, overwhelmed a deputy and burst into court, fatally shooting Barnes and Brandau. He also killed sheriff’s Sgt. Hoyt Teasley, who chased Nichols outside the courthouse, and U.S. customs agent David Wilhelm at his Buckhead home several hours later. Nichols was later convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
“All of us made a promise to ourselves we wouldn’t let them die in vain,” said District Attorney Paul Howard, who attended the ceremony. “We believe this says to us Julie will continue to live.”