GBI det­o­nates sus­pi­cious Valen­tine’s Day pack­age in New­ton Plaza

Shot­gun-wield­ing ro­bot used to blast sus­pected ex­plo­sive

The Covington News - - Front Page - By Tyler Smith

Valen­tines Day started with a bang when the Ge­or­gia Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion det­o­nated a sus­pi­cious pack­age that was dis­cov­ered in New­ton Plaza.

Ac­cord­ing to Cov­ing­ton Po­lice De­part­ment of­fi­cials, Kevin John­son, 28, of Ox­ford, was ar­rested in the case and charged with ter- ror­is­tic threats, ag­gra­vated as­sault and pos­ses­sion of a hoax de­vice.

“ He be­lieved it to be a bomb,” said Cov­ing­ton Po­lice De­tec­tive D. J. Seals. “ It was not a bomb, but that is what he be­lieved it to be.”

The pack­age, a yel­low en­ve­lope with red writ­ing, was found around at 9: 15 a. m. be­tween Wain and Com­pany Bar­ber Shop and State Farm In­sur­ance by a store owner, ac­cord­ing to Seals.

“As they opened the store, they found the pack­age,” Seals said. “They called us and alerted us to the sit­u­a­tion.”

Seals said CPD of­fi­cers ar­rived at around 9: 25 a. m. and, af­ter in­ves­ti­gat­ing the pack­age, de­ter­mined the GBI Bomb Dis­posal Unit needed to be called in on the case.

While wait­ing for the unit to ar­rive, CPD of­fi­cers se­cured the scene, clear­ing and tap­ing off sev­eral busi­nesses in the strip mall.

By 11: 15 a. m., the BDU’s REMOTEC An­dros brand ro­bot was de­ployed to re­move the pack­age from the front of the stores to an al­ley in the rear of the plaza. Once the pack­age was safely sit­u­ated be­tween the brick build­ing’s back­side and a con­crete bar­rier, CPD of­fi­cers shut down traf­fic on U. S. High­way 278.

Af­ter arm­ing the ro­bot, the BDU was ready for det­o­na­tion. At 11:40 a.m., the BDU ro­bot shot the en­ve­lope with what Seals said was a round sim­i­lar to a shot­gun shell. The en­ve­lope erupted into a con­fetti-like cloud of pa­per and other ma­te­rial, but noth­ing that would cause an ex­plo­sion.

John­son was ar­rested 11:20 a.m., Seals said.

“Along with some other writ­ing, which we are go­ing to hold for court, he had writ­ten his name and ad­dress on the en­ve­lope,” Seals said.

Once the BDU ex­am­ines the re­mains of the pack­age, the CPD will take over the

at in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Seals said the city had not had this sort of in­ci­dent since Bar­ron Hays Harper Jr., 60, a Cov­ing­ton res­i­dent and City of Cov­ing­ton Gas De­part­ment em­ployee, al­legedly left a sus­pi­cious pack­age at a wa­ter tower in Oc­to­ber 2006. Though that pack­age did not ex­plode, Seals said there was det­o­na­tion cord found inside it.

Any­one with in­for­ma­tion about the case is asked to call the CPD at 770-786-7605. Tips can be given to the CPD anony­mously by visit­ing their Web site at www.cov­ing­ton­po­ and click­ing on “con­tact us” and then “se­cret wit­ness.”

Tyler Smith/The Cov­ing­ton News

On the scene: GBI Bomb Dis­posal Unit’s REMOTEC An­dros brand ro­bot was de­ployed to re­move and det­o­nate a sus­pi­cious pack­age found Thurs­day morn­ing.

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