Police announce $200K reward for information on arson suspects protesting ‘Cop City’Photo provided by Atlanta News First
By Hope Dean, Atlanta News First
ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) — Several authorities are offering a $200,000 reward for information that leads to the identification, arrest and conviction of arson suspects believed to be protesting the future Atlanta Public Safety Training Center.
“This is a significant increase in reward money because it’s that important. The next fire could cost someone their lives,” said Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum.
The reward pulls funds from the FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Georgia Arson Control Board and the Crime Stoppers of Greater Atlanta, Chief Schierbaum said in a press conference on Thursday morning.
Schierbaum said the fires have caused nearly $10 million in damages. He believes they are caused by a “handful” of people, he said.
“These individuals have placed citizens’ lives in danger,” he said. “They’re working hard to make sure first responders aren’t there when they’re called upon by callers to 911.”
Schierbaum highlighted several incidents — including four instances where the construction equipment of two different businesses went up in flames, an instance where the suspects allegedly burned the current Atlanta Police Training Academy and the Pathforce Precinct in the same night, and an instance where suspects were seen setting a youth center for crime diversion alight on-camera, he said.
Schierbaum said an anonymous group has claimed responsibility for the fires in an online forum.
Schierbaum said the fires suck resources from the police department and put others at risk, including firefighters.
Any tipsters can remain anonymous, Schierbaum said by calling 404-577-TIPS.
In August, the police department offered $60,000 for information about the arson suspects. And in September, more than 60 people were named in a sweeping indictment that accuses them of violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act in their “Cop City” protests. Several of the defendants are also facing separate charges of domestic terrorism, first-degree arson and money laundering.
Meanwhile, the petition to put the future of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center on the public ballot remains in legal limbo. A court hearing on Thursday could settle the matter.
On Thursday, a panel of judges at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals heard opening arguments surrounding the validity of the petition process.
No ruling was made on Thursday.
“We just don’t know. We are waiting, definitely with bated breath and hoping that things work out in our favor,” said Keyanna Jones after the hearing.
Jones is one of the co-defendants who filed a lawsuit against the City of Atlanta insisting that DeKalb County residents should be able to participate in the signature-gathering process.
A district court judge initially ruled in Jones’ favor, expanding the window for collecting signatures.
On Thursday, the City of Atlanta argued the district court judge overstepped in giving petitioners more time to college signatures.
While the courts continue to weigh the legitimacy of the ballot referendum process, construction continues at the planned public safety training center.
On Thursday, Chief Schierbaum said the project remains on track. The first phase of the center is projected to open December 2024.
In other public safety news:
— A fire broke out overnight inside a home in DeKalb County. It happened on the 1600 block of Hairston Road in Stone Mountain. DeKalb Fire says three people and their pets escaped the flames safely. There is damage to the right side of the home. Investigators are working to figure out the cause.
Decaturish media partner Atlanta News First provided this story.