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Thistles & Roses

Tarrant courthouse shooting was 30 years ago


July 1 marks the 30th anniversary of when former attorney, George Lott, began shooting in the Court of Appeals courtroom in Tarrant County on July 1, 1992.

On that day I was inside the family court services office setting up visitation and other routine orders for a divorce case for a client after a hearing. That office was located within the perimeter of the building where the shooting occurred. Someone rushed in and told us there was an active shooter. We were locked down for several hours. Lott may have passed me in the hallway.

Lott killed two lawyers and seriously wounded two judges. Another attorney was wounded.

One of the lawyers was Chris Marshal, a friend and colleague, who was chief of appeals for the district attorney’s office. John Edwards, a transactional attorney for the law firm Haynes and Boone, and a 33-year-old father of twin girls, was killed on a stairway trying to escape. When we were finally allowed to leave, I walked through a ring of police in tactical gear outside the court house. I went across the street to another court trying to get information. I was in shock.

 Rumors were flying around. Who was shot and who was dead was uncertain. Finally it was determined that Chris Marshal was dead.

I did not have a cell phone at that time but, I was able use a land line to call my wife who was frantic. I called my legal assistant who was also upset. My other family were notified that I was all right.

 In a daze, I finally walked up the street to my office where my secretary had locked the door out of fear. We never left it unlocked again.

 Reports of how many gunmen were involved and where they had gone were also going around. We later learned that Lott, acting alone, had calmly walked out of the courthouse to his van in a parking lot across the street from the courthouse. I walked past that parking lot on my way back to my office.

 Lott later said that he stayed in the van for a while and then began driving around aimlessly. He eventually went to the offices of WFAA -TV in Dallas where he turned himself in to news anchor Tracey Rowlett. He also gave Rowlett the gun and ammunition. All was caught on camera. Lott had been upset at how the courts had ruled in his own child custody case. Lott eventually was executed.

 This had been the fourth shooting at the Tarrant courthouse within a few years. One of these was a love triangle where one of the men killed the other man in front of the woman inside the courtroom. I was going to the courthouse that day when I saw the man being carried out on a gurney.

It wasn’t until after the Lott shooting that Tarrant County put in metal detectors.

 I went to Chris Marshal’s funeral over that Fourth of July weekend.

 Recently I mentioned the Lott shooting to a young lawyer and he did not know what I was talking about.

I thought that those of us who went through that day in 1992 have a duty to let the younger lawyers know what happened. Chris Marshal’s portrait hangs in the lobby of the courthouse. 

Thousands walk by and have no idea who he was and why his portrait is there.

When I see the innumerable random shootings that have occurred recently, I remember that July day and feel for the victims and their families.

 I remember the fear from being locked down, not knowing what would happen and how worried my family must be. The courtroom where Lott was shooting was one where I appeared many times. I think, what if I had been in that courtroom that day?

 It gave me a deep felt appreciation for life and my colleagues and my family.


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