Affirmative Action Factor in Atlanta Shooting?

Investigators blame last month’s deadly Atlanta courthouse shooting on a series of mistakes and missteps. But some affirmative action critics say it boils down to the fact that there was a woman deputy escorting accused gunman Brian Nichols (search).

“You have a female officer who is about 5 feet 2 inches tall, versus a criminal in this case — a former linebacker who is 6 feet tall,” said John Lott, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank in Washington.

Those in favor of affirmative action — the policy of hiring and recruiting with the intent of eliminating effects of past discrimination or preventing discrimination altogether — say the practice shouldn’t get the blame for the March 11 shooting rampage at Fulton County Superior Court (search) in Atlanta.

“Affirmative action certainly cannot be the scapegoat for sloppy procedures or for not being attentive,” said Bob Ethridge of the American Association for Affirmative Action. “A lot of different things went wrong.”

Nichols, about to face a retrial for rape and other offenses, allegedly overpowered the female deputy escorting him to court. With her gun, police say Nichols shot the judge who was to preside over his trial, the court reporter, another sheriff’s deputy in his path as he fled and a U.S. customs agent who was working on his home in a nearby suburb.

The rape suspect then took a woman hostage in another town before he was caught and turned in, according to authorities. Nichols, who appeared last Friday in the same courthouse where the massacre happened, faces murder and other charges.

The Fulton County Sheriff's office says it's considering changes in the number of deputies escorting prisoners and the procedures they follow — but for now, there's no plan to make security decisions based on officers' gender or strength.

Click in the video box above for a full report by FOX News' Jonathan Serrie.