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'They were going to burn the truck with me in it' | Man recounts surprise attack at Atlanta's embattled 'Cop City' site

A Paulding County man said squatters in the woods torched his truck and forced him to flee.

ATLANTA — A Paulding County man said he was attacked by people who are living at the proposed Atlanta police academy training site derisively known as "Cop City."

Richard Porter, an auto mechanic in Dallas, Georgia, said he was on Key Road SE looking for a Craigslist purchase. When that failed, he said he spotted what appeared to be some discarded junk that he thought he could refurbish.

The item he spotted was in the training academy site. Porter said he was unaware it had become a political flashpoint.

The city has taken baby steps to transform the property into a police and fire training center in part because protestors have pushed back, sometimes aggressively. Police said some of them appear to live in the woods due to be redeveloped.

RELATED: 'Drop Cop City or Else' |  $80,000 in damage caused at offices of contractor for new Atlanta police training center

Porter said he stopped his truck, "and then these people started coming out of the woods in camouflage stuff and blocked me in."

A police report said the people in the woods attacked him, immobilizing his truck and setting it on fire as he ran from the area.  "It seemed to me like they were going to burn the truck with me in it," Porter told 11Alive News.

The area has been the subject of heated protests. They came after the city of Atlanta revealed a plan to build a new state-of-the-art police training center on Key Road, just outside the city limits in DeKalb County.  It would clear cut a portion of the forest that has grown since the city abandoned an old prison farm on the site in the 1980s.

RELATED: 'It’s not for our community' | Crowd protests 'Cop City' in Atlanta

Protesters say the woods should be preserved and funding for police services should be cut or eliminated.  

Now, Porter is looking to replace a truck that he thinks was unwittingly entangled in the “Cop City” controversy.  

"Had no idea what was going on out there," Porter said. Additionally, he said the attack shook him and he's now under a doctor's care for anxiety disorder.

Earlier this year, city officials said they had hoped to start construction by the end of 2022.  That appears to be on hold, at least temporarily.

The DeKalb County police report does not name any suspects but it does draw a link between Porter’s attackers and the cop city protests.


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