DeKalb County, GA – A community park near the site of the future Atlanta Public Safety Training Center was shut down by DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond late last week after potentially deadly traps were discovered hidden in the brush throughout the area.
Thurmond issued an executive order on March 24 closing Intrenchment Creek Park after “hidden traps or other devices designed to injure, maim, or cause the death of adults, children, and pets” were found, according to a county press release.
Intrenchment Creek Park is located roughly adjacent to the site of the future Atlanta Public Safety Training Center where rioters have attacked police and set construction equipment ablaze on multiple occasions over the past year, WXIA reported.
Protesters have dubbed the area “Cop City.”
A multijurisdictional task force led by the DeKalb County Police Department (DCPD) was deployed after the executive order was issued to begin the process of locating and removing the various traps from the public park.
“After just a couple of hours of clearing the Intrenchment Creek Park area, our officers have already come across several dangerous items,” the DCPD confirmed in a tweet on Monday morning.
The department shared photos of several seized items, which included boards with rusty nails protruding from them and Molotov cocktails.
Police said “several syringes containing Fentanyl” were also located, Decaturish reported.
After just a couple of hours of clearing the Intrenchment Creek Park area, our officers have already come across several dangerous items (molotov cocktails, nailed boards, etc.) as pictured below. We will continue to keep you posted as we move forward with the operation. pic.twitter.com/rvYa4rLuDc
— DeKalb County Police Department (@DeKalbCountyPD) March 27, 2023
Thurston said police “confiscated booby traps, [and] boards with nails that were hidden by leaves and underbrush,” according to The Post Millennial.
“You could kill a small child or a pet with those,” he added. “Someone walking on a trail and trips, a blow to the head is deadly. It becomes not just a hidden trap, it becomes a death trap.”
The team was also tasked with removing any “unauthorized” individuals and vehicles from “restricted areas” within the park and to secure the park entrances “with cement barricades,” according to the DeKalb County press release.
There’s a huge police presence at Intrenchment Creek Park near the site of Cop City. Police say they’re clearing out booby traps left hidden in the woods including board with nails, Molotov cocktails, and vials of fentanyl. pic.twitter.com/0ogcuINdxH
— Doug Reardon (@ReardonReports) March 27, 2023
DCPD Chief Mirtha Ramos said during a press conference that the task force officers were instructed to locate individuals within the park and inform them about the executive order, then to give them the option of gathering their property and leaving or to be arrested, WXIA reported.
Shortly before noon on Monday, the DCPD announced that two individuals had left the grounds voluntarily when asked to do so by police, WXIA reported.
A third individual was arrested.
The park closure is not expected to be permanent.
“Once DeKalb County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs in coordination with the DeKalb Police Department determines that the park is safe for the public to visit, DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond’s executive order will be rescinded,” the county noted.
Dekalb Co CEO Michael Thurmond announces Intrenchment Creek Park is closed due to “dangerous and possible life-threatening conditions” in the area. #fox5atl @FOX5Atlanta pic.twitter.com/CS9bj2QpJO
— Chris Lawson (@ChrisLawsonFOX5) March 24, 2023
Dozens of rioters have been arrested in the area over the past year, with many being charged with domestic terrorism for attacking police with Molotov cocktails, rocks, and fireworks, The Post Millennial reported.
The mob “destroyed multiple pieces of construction equipment” by either vandalizing them or setting them ablaze back in March.
They also attacked police during that uprising, which resulted in at least 35 arrests.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) said law enforcement officers were clearing the encampment at the future training site on Jan. 18 as part of an “operation to identify people who are trespassing and committing other crimes on the property,” when they encountered a man inside one of the tents, FOX News reported.
“Officers gave verbal commands to the man who did not comply and shot a Georgia State Patrol Trooper,” according to the GBI. “Other law enforcement officers returned fire, hitting the man.”
The suspect was pronounced dead at the scene.
He was later identified as 26-year-old Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, who went by the name of “Tortuguita,” WAGA reported.
Rioters called for violence against police in the wake of the shooting, with several groups rallying followers on social media.
Eight rioters were arrested at the property in May of 2022 after throwing a Molotov cocktail at officers while they were trying to remove them, CNN reported.
CONSTRUCTION SITE BURNS: Huge plumes of smoke and massive police response after @defendATLforest / #StopCopCity protesters face off with police at the site of Atlanta’s future Public Safety Training Facility. I’m told Molotov cocktails were thrown. Construction equipment is on… pic.twitter.com/0F9qj8dgFn
— Billy Heath III (@BillyHeathFOX5) March 5, 2023
Vandals destroyed surveillance cameras in the area a couple months later, then someone fired shots on the technician who showed up to repair them, according to WAGA.
In August of 2022, law enforcement officers were seen standing guard while Georgia Power repaired a damaged transformer at the property.
Police and construction crews had gotten into a confrontation with rioters there earlier in the week, according to WAGA.
Construction equipment at the site went up in flames the following month.
When the task force went to the property on Dec. 13, 2022, to take down some of the barricades the group had set up to block entrances to the site, rioters confronted them and allegedly “threw rocks at police cars and attacked EMTs outside the neighboring fire stations with rocks and bottles,” according to the GBI.
“Task force members used various tactics to arrest individuals who were occupying makeshift treehouses,” the agency said, according to CNN.
The GBI said the task force located “explosive devices, gasoline, and road flairs” while clearing the area, WXIA reported.
The rioters, who have touted themselves as forest defenders, established the encampment to protest the future training facility they refer to as “Cop City,” WXIA reported.
They have had the semi-permanent encampments at the site for approximately one year.
Police ultimately arrested five rioters during the December confrontation, all of whom are now facing domestic terrorism and other charges.
The GBI said there had been multiple recent clashes between the group and police or other public service personnel at the site prior to the arrests made in December.
“[The Atlanta Police Department] and other agencies had made several arrests over the past few months for the ongoing criminal activity at the site location,” the GBI said, according to WXIA. “Some of the criminal activities include carjacking, various crimes against persons, destruction of property, arson, and attacks against public safety officials. Law enforcement continues to address the criminal acts committed by the individuals that continue to occupy the area of the proposed training site.”
The Atlanta Police Foundation (APF) said it plans to build the $90 million, state-of-the-art complex on 85 acres of the site, and that the remaining 180 acres will remain undeveloped, WXIA reported.
The facility will include a burn building, a mock city, and a shooting range, according to CNN.
The demonstrators argued that the project would destroy one of the largest forested areas of the city, and that the land is historically significant to the Muscogee Creek Native Americans who once lived in the area.
The site was also the location of the Old Prison Farm, where unpaid inmates worked the farmland as a “dignified” means of imprisonment, WXIA reported.