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Police Engaged in Standoff With Atlanta Gunman

Aired June 21, 2001 - 08:16   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: We've got more developments now on this breaking story out of Atlanta: a standoff with a gunman -- between gunman and police in the Buckhead section of Atlanta.

And joining us by telephone right now is CNN affiliate WSB reporter Mark Arum.

Mark, I understand that you spoke with your helicopter reporter, who had a bird's-eye view of what was going on. What did he see? What did he say?

MARK ARUM, WSB REPORTER: Yes, that's right.

This happened -- about an hour ago, we got first word of this. You mentioned it's in the Buckhead section of Atlanta. And for all your viewers familiar with Buckhead, about two years ago, we had that day trader shooting involving Mark Barton, only about two miles from the scene of this standoff right now.

As you can see from the live shot there, that is the crane where the alleged gunman is held up. We have not seen a gun on him -- I just want to get that out of the way first. We haven't seen an actual gun. Reports are, though, he does have a rifle up there. This is high above a MARTA train station and a building under construction that is going up across the street from the construction zone of the train station. And it's a very busily traveled intersection in the city of Atlanta in the Buckhead section, an affluent section of Atlanta.

And, right now, traffic is at a standstill in the area. We have actually had to move our chopper out of the way. They've cleared the air space there, worried that possibly the gunman might take some shots. And the only communication made from the gentleman in the crane and police was by a note that he dropped from the crane down onto the ground below. And police scurried over there to read the note -- no word yet on what his demand are at this time.

LIN: Mark, we have yet to actually see the gunman. Has your helicopter reporter actually seen this person? And what was he doing? What did his demeanor seem like?

ARUM: Well we saw him. He was a white male. I would guess probably late 20's, early 30's -- guessing. He was quite a distance away we saw him -- didn't see a gun. When we saw him, he was actually talking on a cell phone. I'm not sure exactly who he was talking to, but he was -- right behind, you can see that crane box. He's right between that -- not actually in the box, but outside of it, with some blankets and some other paraphernalia around him.

And when we saw him, he was talking on a phone. But we have not seen a weapon just yet. But City of Atlanta police are saying that he is armed.

LIN: When you look at the scene around the construction site, Mark, does it appear that just anybody could walk in here? Or would it have to be somebody who had access to the site?

ARUM: Well, I don't believe it's a closed construction site. I'm sure it's closed, but not heavily secured. And he probably just walked in there, climbed the fence, or whatever, and then got up into the crane -- don't know if he was a workman at this site. Possibly, he might be. But they have cleared the area below.

From our chopper shot earlier, there was close to 100, 200 people that have been evacuated from the area nearby. And they've been hustled off into nearby parking lots. So it's definitely a tense situation here high above the streets of Buckhead .

LIN: Last we saw in a live picture, traffic was moving down Piedmont Avenue, which I think is right in front of this construction site. Have police actually shut down the area? Is there any concern that if this man does have a rifle, that it might be able to strike targets below?

ARUM: Yes, certainly. The word we were getting was a 306 long- range rifle. And I'm hearing from my sources that that's accurate from up two miles away. So you can understand why they've closed the airspace in the area. And I imagine the Atlanta Police Department has shut down Piedmont and all the neighboring streets there -- very busy business section, as you well know, trying to get onto the interstates. Georgia 400 and I-85 are not too far away.

LIN: Mark, let me interrupt you. We're seeing a door open in this crane box. Do you think that we are looking at the gunman moving around?

ARUM: I think he might be moving into the crane box as we speak, because I said earlier, when we saw him, he wasn't actually in the box. He was outside of it, in front of that door that is now opened.

LIN: All right, so what are police saying that they're going to do next?

ARUM: They're not talking to us right now. They've actually shut down communications with us, told us to clear the airspace. We do have a reporter on the scene on the ground trying to gather information. And right now, he's just getting reaction from bystanders and some witness accounts -- but police not officially talking to us right now.

LIN: All right, we're seeing a little activity. It appears that somebody is moving in and out of that space, moving some things around inside the crane box. You mentioned that he was seen with some blankets?

ARUM: It seemed he had bundled himself up. I'm imaging it's -- you know, it's 70-plus degrees here in Atlanta. But it could be a little windy that high up. It seemed he had maybe a duffel bag and possibly a blanket with him. But that's all we saw. We were quite a ways away. We do have a high-powered camera, but we didn't see -- again, we didn't see him armed. We just saw him talking on his cell phone. He really didn't seem to be under much stress at all.

LIN: How high up is he?

ARUM: It's tough to say. I'd say at least a couple of hundred feet. It's a pretty big-sized crane. There's actually two cranes in the area -- a lot of construction going on in that area. Ironically, those of you following the Gold Club trial here in Atlanta, this is, I mean, literally hundreds of yards away from the Gold Club -- so a very busy section of town.

LIN: That's right -- and not far from a MARTA station, where a big story took place: a murder of a man trying to commute home to the Buckhead area.

Mark, can you tell us a little bit more about this construction site? What's actually going up and who owns the property?

ARUM: Well, I believe it's a city-owned property. The building that's under construction itself is, I believe, is a Bell South building that's being put up. But there's a -- it's a high turnover over there.

We've got, like you mentioned, the MARTA station, which is a train station. And they're developing houses and apartments around that area and a new shopping center -- so a very busy construction area there. And there's -- you know, anyone from the Atlanta area is familiar with the construction that's ongoing there -- and certainly some construction delays normally on Piedmont Road as they move the big rigs in and out of there.

LIN: Right. All right, thank you very much, Mark, for bringing us up to date from the scene.

We're looking at a live picture there of some activity in that construction box, high above on a construction tower -- construction crane rather -- where a gunman, according to Mark Arum of WSB, may be armed with a rifle, as well as some sort of a handgun. Police have cleared the area.



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