Training center protester arrested, linked to 2023 police motorcycle arson

Atlanta Fire Chief Roderick Smith talks at a press conference at the Atlanta Police Headquarters about the arrest of John Roberts Mazurek Thursday. February 8, 2024.   (Steve Schaefer/steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer /

Credit: Steve Schaefer /

Atlanta Fire Chief Roderick Smith talks at a press conference at the Atlanta Police Headquarters about the arrest of John Roberts Mazurek Thursday. February 8, 2024. (Steve Schaefer/steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Law enforcement officials have made an arrest after several police motorcycles were burned at a precinct in July 2023.

John Robert Mazurek, 30, is charged with first-degree arson in a crime police say is related to opposition of Atlanta’s public safety training center.

The fire destroyed eight Atlanta Police Department motorcycles at the city’s old training academy on Southside Industrial Parkway.

Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said the arrest occurred after a task force comprised of state and local police and fire department officials executed search warrants for “three locations connected to acts of vandalism and arson that have occurred over the last three months.” Two of the locations are in Atlanta and one is in unincorporated DeKalb County.

“This is a collective effort to keep Atlanta safe and stop criminal acts across Georgia,” Schierbaum said.

Schierbaum said Mazurek was taken into custody without incident. He said it has been fortunate that no one has been killed or seriously injured in the training center “attacks.”

Multiple Atlanta police motorcycles were destroyed in the fire. July 1, 2023 (Contributed)

Credit: Contributed

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Credit: Contributed

“Despite the almost 30-plus arson attacks that have occurred across this state and this country, we’ve been very fortunate that no one has died yet,” he said.

Schierbaum said more arrests are likely in the coming weeks and encouraged people to call Crimestoppers with any tips. A $200,000 reward is being offered to anyone that provides information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the arsons.

“There are others that I anticipate we’ll be arresting in the weeks to come,” Schierbaum said.

Unsolved arsons incidents being investigated by Atlanta police date back to May 2022, when someone broke a window at the back of the At-Promise Center and tossed in four Molotov cocktails and an incendiary device.

Other fires have been set since then, including a contractor’s equipment set on fire a third time in October and vehicles owned by Erns Concrete were set ablaze in Gwinnett County back in November.

The majority of the incidents have targeted contractors or agencies connected to the construction of the facility. Ernst Concrete, where 12 cement trucks were destroyed, has said it is not involved in the construction.

Atlanta Fire Chief Rod Smith said Mazurek is a resident of Atlanta and moved to the area from Illinois a few years ago. Schierbaum said they hope the arrest sends a message that those involved in “arson, vandalism and intimidation” won’t get away with it.

Chief of the Atlanta Police Department Darin Schierbaum talks at a press conference at the Atlanta Police Headquarters about the arrest of John Roberts Mazurek Thursday. February 8, 2024.  (Steve Schaefer/steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer /

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Credit: Steve Schaefer /

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said the training center is about 70% done. While efforts to stop the construction of the facility are ongoing through the legal system, Dickens said the facility will be operational by the end of the year.

The cost of the facility has increased from the originally-stated $90 million to more than $109 million, city officials said, due to increased security measures, litigation and a spike in insurance rates. The elevated price will be covered by the Atlanta Police Foundation and its donors, officials said.

The mayor’s office said that most of the increase is due to heightened security measures at the site, companies involved in the construction and individuals tied to the center that have been threatened or targeted.

The attacks have also caused insurance on the project to increase by $400,000, officials said.

He said those who oppose the training center have a right to have their voices heard, but not to destroy property and put others in danger.

“This is not the way to make sure your voice is heard. This is destructive. This is criminal and this is leading to someone (being) arrested and going to jail,” Dickens said. “Nobody should be setting fires or destructing public or private property or threatening people and intimidating folks.”

Organizer Kamau Franklin said the press conferences by city officials is an attempt to distract from the real issue of people wanting their voices heard on the ballot box regarding the facility.

“The city of Atlanta with the state police and the federal government continue to criminalize organizers and activists,” Franklin said.

About a dozen protesters against the construction of the facility gathered outside the Atlanta Police Foundation building.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens talks at a press conference at the Atlanta Police Headquarters about the arrest of John Roberts Mazurek Thursday. February 8, 2024. (Steve Schaefer/steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer /

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Credit: Steve Schaefer /

Attempts to put the facility on a ballot through a referendum are ongoing, after opponents have said they collected more than 116,000 signatures. A hand count of the petition papers by The Atlanta Journal Constitution and other news organizations found organizers actually turned in 108,500 signatures — short of the 116,000 they have claimed.

An analysis of a sample of petition pages by the news organizations found that if petition organizers have met their goal, it is likely by a narrow margin.

The Atlanta City Council passed legislation Monday that codifies the petition verification process. However, the process is currently on hold while the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reviews the city’s case to reverse a court decision that extended the signature collection timeline for training center opponents. Oral arguments were heard in December but it is unclear when the court will rule.

Organizer Keyanna Jones, who is also a plaintiff in the referendum case, said there is no update on the appeals case but said Dickens can easily end his fight against opponents of the facility by dropping the appeal and allowing the referendum to be on the ballot in May.

More than 60 protesters against the facility have been indicted on charges of violating the state’s RICO act. Other protesters have been charged with domestic terrorism in the past, but Dickens said he would leave charging decisions to the proper authorities.

On Thursday, Marlon Kautz, one of the 61 protesters charged in the indictment for his involvement with the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, said police justified their actions with claims of violence and terrorism done by those who oppose the facility.

“The raids and arrests we’ve seen today is sadly nothing new. Over the past two years, police have deployed this very same strategy against activist again and again,” Kautz, whose house was raided last year, said.

Jones said they don’t plan to stop any time soon.

“The more they press, the more we are going to push. I want you to get ready because it’s a real tug of war right now,” Jones said. “We know we are standing for what its right.”

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