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Atlanta youth center fire a ‘terrorist act,’ police say

The Westside center location will likely be closed for a couple of weeks.
Published: May. 27, 2022 at 9:51 PM EDT|Updated: May. 30, 2022 at 11:09 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - A fire early Friday morning at a youth center in northwest Atlanta has been ruled arson.

According to the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department, crews responded to the Westside At-Promise Center on the 700 block of Cameron Madison Alexander Boulevard NW early Friday morning because of an alarm.

The Atlanta Police Department tells CBS46 News that some kind of Molotov cocktail was used to start the fire. Along with surveillance cameras and other investigative tools, preliminary findings confirm that two females, dressed in black, carried two gym bags to the rear of the facility at approximately 5:45 a.m. They broke a window and tossed in four Molotov cocktails and an incendiary device. The perpetrators arrived at the scene and departed in a white vehicle.

Police say only one room in the building was damaged and the fire didn’t affect operating systems.

The Atlanta Police Department and Atlanta Fire Rescue investigation have been joined by partner law enforcement agencies, including Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the FBI and GBI.

“We are assisting Fire and APD with the investigation. If there becomes evidence that we can charge for a federal crime we will work with the U.S. Attorney’s office on what we can do” mentioned an FBI spokesperson.

The Atlanta Fire Rescue Department is asking for public assistance in identifying the persons of interest seen in the video below.

Crime Stoppers Atlanta says the fact that the perpetrators targeted a youth center with firebombs has led law enforcement to treat this as a terrorist act.

On Tuesday, cleanup crews were at the center. It’s one of three managed by the Atlanta Police Foundation, offering behavioral health assistance, workforce development, and after-school and summer programming to at-risk youth.

“We understand our services are essential,” said Lakeisha Walker, V.P. of Youth Initiatives for the Foundation. “Our staff is essential, our programming is essential. Without some of these services our youth wouldn’t have the support that they need.”

Walker says the Westside location will likely be closed for a couple of weeks. However, they are looking at options, including busing to other locations so young people in the area who utilize their services can still have access to them.

“The work will not stop,” said Walker. “We’re going to continue to push forward because we understand we’re here to support our kids’ number one, their families and the community.”

In recent weeks, APD and AFR’s Public Safety Training Center (PSTC) has been subject to an escalation of violent protests by self-described anarchists who have firebombed the PSTC site, thrown Molotov cocktails at police officers, and conducted attacks on the offices of the Atlanta Police Foundation and other private companies supportive of the PSTC.

Information can be submitted anonymously to the Crime Stoppers Atlanta tip line at 404-577-TIPS (8477) or online at www.StopCrimeATL.com. Persons do not have to give their name or any identifying information to be eligible for the reward of up to $25,000 for the arrest and indictment of the suspects.