Sheriff: Forsyth County Courthouse Shooter 'Planned To Take Hostages'

Jun 6, 2014

Dennis Ronald Marx
Credit Forsyth County

Officials say a man who opened fire outside a Cumming courthouse Friday was carrying multiple guns and planned to take hostages.

Forsyth County Sheriff Duane Piper said 48-year-old Dennis Marx was carrying an AR-15 assault rifle and two hand guns when he attempted to storm the downtown Cumming courthouse around 10 a.m. before being fatally shot during a shootout with law enforcement.

Piper said the alleged gunman was wearing a gas mask and carrying hand grenades, smoke bombs, tear gas, ammunition and plastic restraints.

Piper said Marx likely had been planning the attack for some time.

“He came there with everything he had with him, he came there with the specific purpose of killing as many people as he could,” the sheriff said.

Whether Marx legally owned the guns remains unknown, according to Piper.

Several downtown streets near the courthouse remained closed through late Friday night.

Forsyth County Sheriff Duane Piper told reporters that his deputy prevented "what was very close to a major catastrophe."
Credit Marylee Williams/WABE News

The sheriff’s department, with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, said a sweep of the suspect’s house also revealed a few pipe bombs and other handmade explosives. However, he said the house hadn’t been booby trapped, as the department initially expected.

“It appeared that that may have been the purpose for them, but for whatever reason he didn’t finish with the actual booby trap,” Piper said, adding Marx had vacated his home days before the shooting.

Piper said Marx had a history with the department, including a 2011 arrest on drugs and weapons charges.

Marx last year had filed a lawsuit against the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Department stemming from that arrest, alleging excessive force on the part of law enforcement and unconstitutional search.

Marx was due in court Friday for a hearing on separate​ on the 2011  drugs and weapons charges, and court officials say he was expected to enter a guilty plea.

The sheriff’s office says Marx attempted to drive a rented Nissan Armada into the courthouse after being approached by a deputy sheriff. The deputy opened fire after Marx tried to run him over, and was shot in the leg by the suspect.

Piper said the deputy likely prevented "what was very close to a major catastrophe." 

“[Marx’s] purpose was to get into that courthouse, and that deputy that was outside distracted him away from that,” Piper said.

The Forsyth Sheriff’s Department said Marx was shot and killed before he got into the building. It is still unclear exactly who shot and killed Marx, though Piper said eight of his deputies shot at Marx.

Piper said the wounded deputy was taken to surgery Friday afternoon with non life-threatening injuries, and was stable. He declined to give the deputy’s name, citing perceived threats directed at the department.

The sheriff’s office said it will continue to investigate the case.