The Atlanta Public Safety Training Center | A timeline of violence, controversy

Continuing violence at the site of a future Atlanta police training facility is casting a controversial light on the proposed development.
A shooting near the site of a future police training facility has cast new light on the controversial development.
Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 4:17 PM EST|Updated: Oct. 6, 2023 at 2:44 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Continuing violence at the site of a future Atlanta police training facility is continuing to cast a controversial light on the proposed Atlanta Public Safety Training Center.

The 85-acre property is owned by the city of Atlanta but located in DeKalb County’s south river forest, once home to the old Atlanta prison farm.

Here is a timeline of recent events near the property as well as a look at how we got here:

2015: The Atlanta Police Foundation is tasked into looking into what a training center would look like and what it would cost.

April 2021: Then-Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced a plan to turn the forested land into a public safety training facility that would include a shooting range, a mock village and a burn center. Opposition arises from environmental groups, neighborhood associations and racial justice groups.

September 2021: Despite public outcry, the Atlanta city council gave the $90-million project a green light in September 2021.

January 2022: Activists and organizers who had dubbed the project “Cop City” begin protesting at the site, with some even building shelters in trees to prevent the construction.

May 2022: Seven protesters - the majority from out of state - were arrested after police accused them of throwing a Molotov cocktail at officers as they tried to remove the protesters from the site.

December 2022: Five more people were arrested, this time on domestic terrorism charges, after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said protesters threw rocks at police cars and threw rocks and bottles at emergency services personnel outside neighboring fire stations.

Jan. 18, 2023: A Georgia State Patrol trooper is shot on the site. Law enforcement officials said they were conducting a clearing operation near the site of the proposed center when someone opened fire on the officers and troopers. The shooter was then shot by law enforcement and was pronounced dead at the scene. The trooper, who was shot in the abdomen, is taken to Grady Memorial Hospital. He survives the shooting.

Feb. 17, 2023: The building of the facility is allowed to continue after a Fulton County Superior Court judge denies a temporary restraining order.

March 5, 2023: Officials said around 5:30 p.m. Sunday, a group of violent agitators destroyed multiple pieces of construction equipment by fire and vandalism.

March 6, 2023: Georgia law groups, Atlanta City Council member responds to violent incident

March 7, 2023: Twenty-three people charged with domestic terrorism in connection with the incident appear in court for the first time.

April 19, 2023: Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens remains stern in his commitment to developing the facility

“Every part of this project has been scrutinized and has been found to be fully compliant with the law and all environmental protection requirements, so we are moving forward,” the mayor said.

April 20, 2023: Habersham County district attorney takes over ‘Cop City’ shooting investigation

Habersham County District Attorney George Christian has been tasked with determining if any of the officers involved in the Jan. 18 shooting will face criminal charges.

June 7, 2023: Activists unveil plan to stop ‘Cop City’ at the ballot box

Activists announced their efforts that would force a referendum to let Atlanta voters decide whether or not the construction of Cop City should proceed.

June 15, 2023: Fulton County pursuing new police training center amid ‘Cop City’ controversy

Fulton County’s new public safety training center will help train personnel from the Fulton County Police Department, Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, Marshal’s Office, MARTA, Georgia State University, and some federal agencies.

The biggest differences between Fulton County’s new site and Atlanta’s training site are that Fulton’s is already paid for and it’s significantly smaller in size.

June 20, 2023: ‘Cop City’ critics file lawsuit claiming City of Atlanta stalling ballot referendum petition

In the lawsuit, critics claimed the City of Atlanta is “illegally stonewalling” the process of adding a referendum to an upcoming ballot.

July 27, 2023: Opponents of ‘Cop City’ can collect votes, federal judge rules

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Howard Cohen ruled in favor of DeKalb County residents who are seeking to collect signatures for a ballot referendum.

Stop Cop City Vote Coalition said the ruling allows them and others living outside of Metro Atlanta to start collecting signatures for a referendum petition on a November ballot.

Aug. 18, 2023: Training center opponents say 100,000 signatures were collected

Opponents of Atlanta’s planned public safety training center said more than 100,000 signatures were collected to have Atlanta voters decide the fate of the controversial project.

Sept. 11, 2023: City of Atlanta says petition signatures on public safety training center turned in past original deadline

When opponents of the training center turned in petition signatures, the city said they were turned in past the original deadline. The signatures were then locked away in a “secure location” pending further rulings from the 11th Circuit Court.

Sept. 30, 2023: Activists outraged after City of Atlanta releases largely unredacted ‘Cop City’ referendum signatures

After more than 116,000 people signed a petition to put the future of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center on the ballot, the city posted the signatures on its website. But most of the signee information — including names, addresses and phone numbers — was unredacted.

Oct. 6, 2023: Fatal shooting of protester at site of Atlanta Public Safety Training Center justified

The special prosecutor investigating the fatal shooting of Manuel Paez Teran at the future site of the training center determined the lethal force used by GSP troopers was justified.