Brookhaven explores safety upgrades to greenway after pregnant woman’s stabbing

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

Victim had to undergo an emergency C-section as a result of the attack

Brookhaven city leaders are exploring ways to bolster safety along a popular multi-use trail after a woman, who was five months pregnant, was stabbed by a stranger while walking with her 3-year-old son.

The assault is the first violent incident to take place along the Peachtree Creek Greenway since its first 1.3-mile stretch opened in December 2019. Residents, police and city leaders were horrified by the June 5 stabbing, which forced the 34-year-old victim to undergo an emergency C-section. The suspect, a homeless man who suffers from mental illness, was arrested five days later.

Credit: Valerie Kasper

Credit: Valerie Kasper

“The area where this unfortunate attack took place, the suspect went up an embankment,” police Chief Gary Yandura said during a Tuesday City Council work session. “He was in-and-out of there within 30 seconds of when the attack happened.”

City Manager Christian Sigman said they’re exploring ways to enhance patrols, including potentially using plain-clothed officers. The trail already has 20 security cameras, including the one that captured an image of the suspect that helped lead to his arrest, but the city plans to install additional cameras at the greenway’s three trailheads.

“(The cameras) did a really good job identifying the suspect in this case,” Sigman said Tuesday. “But we actually want to have cameras on the entrances, the side streets and such, so we can see people coming and going.”

Explore‘We’re still here’: Brookhaven woman reflects on stabbing, emergency birth of son

Councilwoman Madeleine Simmons added the city plans to erect additional signage to point out that trailgoers are on camera, acting as an additional crime deterrent.

Police Lt. David Snively told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he doesn’t know how many people use the trail each day, but he said it’s “well-traveled,” especially on weekends. The trail will eventually span from Spaghetti Junction to the Atlanta Beltline.

“The officers do area checks, just like we do everywhere else in the city,” Snively said. “There’s not a prescribed time or number of times that the officers check (the trail). We ask them to include that as part of their regular patrols.”

He said officers patrol the area on bikes, on foot or while riding the department’s ATV. Yandura said the department aims to move the ATV’s electric charging station near to greenway to provide more frequent access for officers.

There have been vehicle break-ins at parking lots near the city’s parks, but Snively couldn’t remember a violent incident, such as a robbery or assault, taking place at any city Parks and Recreation facility, including the greenway.

The department recently increased its first responding capabilities by creating a drone unit, but the new technology wasn’t able to be deployed during the initial search for the stabbing suspect.

ExploreBrookhaven adopts first police drone response program in Georgia

Snively said the department only has one drone it uses to respond to 911 calls. On June 5, that drone was in the northern part of the city to monitor a SWAT standoff, where a 42-year-old man shot and killed himself after a domestic dispute.

Snively said joggers won’t spot any drones proactively monitoring the trail or anywhere else in the city, because that would violate the city’s privacy agreement to prevent monitoring abuse.

Christopher Jones, 30, faces counts of aggravated assault, aggravated battery and first-degree child cruelty after police say he admitted to the “completely unprovoked” stabbing. Through the collaboration of several police departments, Jones was found and arrested at the Arts Center MARTA station in Atlanta.

Last year, he had been arrested on two felony theft charges after DeKalb County police said he stole an unlocked, parked vehicle. Jones was released on a $10,000 bond last November.

ExploreBrookhaven stabbing suspect was out on bond in felony theft case before attack

Snively also confirmed Jones had previously been arrested after he approached a woman from behind and stole her phone. Snively said the incident was either in Fulton County or unincorporated DeKalb County.

“When we were looking into this case, we were aware of that history. It gave us some additional confirmation that we may have been looking at the correct suspect,” Snively said, adding that nothing was stolen from the stabbing victim.

Credit: DeKalb County Sheriff's Office

Credit: DeKalb County Sheriff's Office

Investigators are still working to determine a motive. Snively said Jones has a medically diagnosed condition, which police believe played a factor in the attack.

“It’s not our place to discuss the histories of accused persons because they’re entitled to a fair trial,” he said. Jones remains in jail without bond.

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