Updated:FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. —
Courthouse shooter Dennis Marx was expected to accept a plea bargain Friday on drug and weapons charges. Instead, authorities say he showed up at the Forsyth County Courthouse armed with an assault rifle and opened fire. One deputy was shot in the leg and taken to the hospital. Marx was shot and killed on the scene.
Federal court filings shed light on why Dennis Marx may have targeted the Forsyth County courthouse. According to documents, Marx had a history with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer got a copy of the three lawsuits Marx had filed over the past year, alleging excessive force during routine police activities as well as unlawful searches and seizures.
The suits name the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, the SWAT team, the county itself and more than two dozen individual officers. In it, Marx says he is suing on behalf of citizens of Forsyth County, the State of Georgia and all citizens of the United States of America.
The filings, in which Marx expresses anger with the department and the officers, stem from a police raid back in August 2011. According to documents, the warrants for that raid were drug-related, eventually leading to the charges Marx was expected to plead guilty to on Friday. When Forsyth County deputies made that arrest at his Lakeside Trail home in August 2011, they utilized a flash bang grenade and the SWAT team.
The first suit filed in August 2013 gives the basic details of how Marx claims his civil rights were violated by the officers during the raid. In October, Marx updated the filing adding specific details on the raid. He filed a third suit in April 2014, alleging that the raid eventually led “directly or indirectly to the death and/or murder of one member of [Marx’s] family.”
In the October filing, Marx claims that despite the fact that he didn’t resist arrest in any way, the officers subjected him to “repeated strikes and blows, arm twisting and knees and boots into his backs and legs.”
Marx says after he was taken into custody he was “beat down forcibly [and] physically restrained” by the officers for “an extended period of time.”
The filing says the officers did not have handcuffs with them, “so physical abuse and restraint was seen as the only option.”
Marx also claims the officers destroyed and damaged his personal property, including family heirlooms, “all over what defendants claim is just over 1 ounce of marijuana.” Marx claimed the officers ransacked his home, leaving "everything in shambles." The filing includes a list of damaged property. The list includes clothing, furniture, memorabilia, antiques, and electronics, as well as damage to doors and walls in the home itself.
The final paragraph says Marx is “entitled to $250,000 so as to deter defendants from repeating their wrongful and deliberate actions.”
In April of this year, Marx filed the final lawsuit saying the seizure of his family’s property left them “without the means to properly protect themselves and/or relocate,” which lead to the death of his family member.
The federal case was still pending because the sheriff asked the judge to place it on hold, so Marx could go to trial on his related criminal charges first. Those were the very charges Marx was scheduled to resolve Friday morning.
Channel 2’s Kerry Kavanaugh spoke with one of Dennis Marx's former attorneys.
Ann Shafer, represented Marx for about six months until she asked to be removed from the case Thursday. Shafer said Marx was frustrated with her legal representation and she was concerned about his emotional state.
“His emotional state was very fragile. He was very sensitive, very, very scared,” said Shafer. “He was obsessed with not going to jail."
Shafer said over the past several weeks her relationship with Marx deteriorated.
“He would not communicate with me. He was not willing to discuss certain pieces of evidence,” said Shafer.
She says Marx, an avid gun dealer, was arrested on the drug and weapons charges, but had no prior criminal history. She was working on a negotiated plea for Marx when she says she received a letter.
“[He] did not fire me, but said that we were not doing our jobs and he felt persecuted,” said Shafer.
She says a judge accepted her motion to withdraw as Marx's attorney, but she came to the Forsyth County on Friday morning anyway to make sure his plea deal went smoothly.
When Marx was a couple of hours late, Shafer says she had to move on to other business. She says as she was pulling out of the courthouse parking lot she heard gunshots.
“I had this feeling that it could have been [Marx],” she said.
Shafer said people who knew Marx described him as a survivalist. She said she was aware of his weapons enthusiasm, but never expected any of this to happen.