East Texan Shared Cell With Suspected Atlanta Shooter - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

3/16/05-Tyler

East Texan Shared Cell With Suspected Atlanta Shooter

"Me and my wife was looking at the TV. It ran up on the flash news 'Brian Nichols' and it just, you know... It just shocked me," says Nichols' former cellmate Rodney Johnson.

Johnson says the man he saw shackled in an Atlanta courtroom isn't the man he knew when they were cellmates last August.

"We had a prayer group there. And we kept each other in God's hands."

Johnson says Brian Nichols confided in him in jail, Johnson he was wrongly accused of the rape charges filed by his girlfriend of eight years.

"If no one didn't believe in him for being good for a long time--he's been a good guy for a long time and never harmed no one and if no one didn't believe in him, he wasn't going to believe in no one."

It is why Johnson believes Nichols just snapped Friday, allegedly killing four people in his rampage. While Johnson watched the manhunt unfold on TV, he believes Nichols was calling his East Texas confidante for help.

"I got a call from Atlanta," says Johnson, "but my mother answered the phone and they hung up.

About an hour and a half later I got another call from Atlanta from a different number. I tried to call back and I didn't get no answer from them and stuff. [The numbers were from] like pay phones and other places.

"And I was wondering if Brian was trying to get in touch with me because we was like brothers."

Although Johnson doesn't justify his friend's alleged actions, he knows he can be of little help to Brian Nichols living hundreds of miles away in East Texas.

"With no family members or no one around that's visiting you or to talk to, nobody in the whole world, his mind was getting troubled. I mean real troubled."

Christine Nelson reporting. cnelson@kltv.com

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