ATLANTA (AP) — A man in Atlanta was arrested Thursday on charges that he torched eight police motorcycles last summer, one of about two dozen acts of arson that officials have linked to protests against a planned police and firefighter training facility that opponents have dubbed “Cop City.”
John Robert Mazurek, 30, was charged with first-degree arson in connection with the early July 1 attack in the parking deck of a southeast Atlanta police precinct, Police Chief Darin Schierbaum announced during a news conference.
No one was injured, but Schierbaum said a police officer was inside the precinct at the time and could have been killed if the arsonists' flames had spread to the building.
Mazurek was arrested Thursday morning while authorities served search warrants at three local homes that investigators believe might contain evidence in connection with the attacks, officials said. It is unclear whether he has an attorney who could comment on the charge — Fulton County's online court records are currently unavailable as a result of a recent hack.
The police chief pledged that more arrests will come and reiterated that a $200,000 reward still stands for information that can help authorities identify those who have committed the various attacks against police vehicles and construction equipment.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said the attacks have been carried out by extremists who have no interest in safety or public order.
“They want chaos,” Dickens said.
Dickens and others say the planned $109 million training center would replace inadequate training facilities and help address difficulties in hiring and retaining police officers that worsened after 2020's nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.
Opponents worry the facility will lead to greater militarization of the police and that its construction will exacerbate environmental damage in a poor, majority-Black area. They are hoping to force a referendum on building the project, though that is currently mired in a legal battle. Sixty-one people were indicted in September on racketeering charges in connection with the movement.
"You can chant all day long, ‘If you build it, we will burn it,’" Schierbaum said, referring to a popular refrain among “Stop Cop City” activists. “But if you set police cars on fire, we're going to find you, and we're going to arrest you.”