FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Dennis Ronald Marx was ready for battle.
Wearing a gas mask and an armored vest, the 48-year-old laid down homemade spike strips on the road shortly before 10 a.m. June 6. The strips were meant to slow authorities’ response along Veterans Memorial Boulevard and East Main Street. Marx drove through the sidewalk into the steps of the courthouse and that’s when gunfire erupted.
Marx didn’t get very far. He tried to run over a Forsyth County Sheriff deputy, who opened fire.
Marx, who was acting alone, fired at the deputy through his windshield and struck the deputy in the leg. Daniel Rush, a 30-year sheriff’s veteran, hit the ground and was later transported to North Fulton Hospital in Roswell. He is expected to have a full recovery.
Eight deputies stationed inside the courthouse, the jail across the street and a SWAT team training nearby rushed to the entrance of the courthouse. They started to shoot at Marx and he fired back.
"There was a gunfight in front of the courthouse," Sheriff Duane Piper said.
Marx then threw out homemade tear gas and smoke grenades at deputies.
And shortly after, Marx died of his gunshot wounds. When deputies searched his SUV, they found assault rifles, plastic flex ties, water and a lot of other weapons.
“He came in there with the purpose of occupying the courthouse,” Piper said. “It was a full-frontal assault.”
No one else was hurt.
It was something no one had ever seen in downtown Cumming.
The streets were evacuated. Across the street, construction workers working on a new courthouse dropped their tools and began to run. Businesses were asked to lock up and wait. Snipers were stationed on top of the county administration building.
The city was shut down.
Georgia Bureau of Investigations, Gwinnett County bomb squad and Georgia Highway Patrol converged on the area. Nearby parking lots were searched for a possible bomb.
"There is no further danger to the public," Piper later said. "It's quite clear that he wanted to run through the front of the courthouse."
Marx was due in court that morning on drug and weapons charges, but he appeared prepared to take over the courthouse.
He had a home off Lakeside Trail near Lake Lanier, but he hadn’t lived there, Piper said. Law enforcement searched the home in case it was booby-trapped.
Marx was also suing the sheriff’s office, alleging excessive force and civil rights violations.