‘Chicken Man' death spurs heightened security

In the aftermath of last month’s apparent suicide of Roswell’s “Chicken Man,” threats have been made against public officials, forcing them to step up security at City Hall.

Police say Andrew Wordes, 53,  took his own life in a fiery explosion March 26 after a two-hour standoff with county marshals who were at his home to serve eviction papers. The incident came after a four-year struggle with the city over his right to raise poultry on his one-acre lot on Alpine Drive and an onslaught of traffic offenses and property code violations.

Some national blogs and media outlets have since portrayed Wordes as a man loved by his neighbors who became a victim of relentless government harassment.

Mayor Jere Wood confirmed Thursday that threats have been made to members of the city and City Council over the affair. "Our police department and city administrator have been monitoring it and doing threat assessments," he said. "Our security folks believe there's a credible threat."

The city has implemented security measures that now limit visitors to City Hall to only one entrance, monitored by a video camera. They must also pass through a metal detector station.

Wordes captured attention in 2008 when he was cited for raising chickens, rabbits and pet pigs in Roswell.  He took to the streets, passing out some 500 chicks, to garner support. His case drew the attention of former Gov. Roy Barnes, who defended Wordes successfully. But more charges would follow.

Last July, on probation for improperly grading his property and for having too many cars on the premises, Wordes was jailed for failing to report to his probation officer, failing to pay the $39 monthly probation fee and failing to complete 180 hours of community service.

By the time he was released in November, his home, which he struggled to make payments on, had been foreclosed.

Roswell spokeswoman Julie Brechbill said Thursday the city did not single out Wordes for enforcement, but had only responded to code enforcement complaints lodged by residents.

Police reports from over the past three years show nearly two dozen incidents involving Wordes, and the code enforcement office records show six complaints filed by nearly a dozen neighbors.

Soon after the news of Wordes death went out, the city received a few calls from people who were either critical of the city or who wanted to hear more about the case, Brechbill said. But in early April, after the story became fodder for some national talk radio outlets, the tenor of the calls changed.

"We started to get a lot of people that were unstable, calling City Hall and emailing City Hall with threats," Brechbill said.

Police would not comment on the investigation into the threats or whether state and federal authorities have been consulted.

"We're looking into it, and we're going to use all of the resources at our disposal," said spokesman Lt. James McGee.

Roswell resident Janet Russell, who advocated for Wordes through the last year of his life, said she thinks the city has things to answer for, but some of the blogs she has seen give an inaccurate and inflammatory account of the facts.

"Violence is never an option," she said. "Never."