Substance at vape shop hospitalizes five

News
Photos courtesy of the Pickens County Sheriff's Office

Jasper, Ga – Authorities have met a major incident as they executed a search warrant at the local A1 Smoke Shop in Jasper, Georgia.

During the execution of the search warrant today, September 14, members of the Drug Task Force, Pickens Sheriff’s Office, and Jasper City Police were exposed to an unidentified substance that immediately brought down one detective. Others also became exposed in attempts to help treat the detective. According to an official release by Sgt. Jody Weaver, Administrative Services Division of the Pickens Sheriff’s Office, “As of this release, two Detectives, a DTF Agent and two EMS personnel are being treated now for symptoms.”

Photos courtesy of the Pickens County Sheriff's Office

Photos courtesy of the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office

Unconfirmed reports indicate the substance may have been made airborne during the search, but reports at this time indicate the exposure is not life-threatening.

According to their official release, “The Cherokee County Hazardous Materials Team has dispatched to the scene to assist, along with all surrounding public safety agencies including the Pickens Fire & EMS and City of Jasper Fire.”

Additionally, authorities have closed businesses in close proximity to the location and evacuated citizens from the area for safety.

With Haz-Mat teams investigating the substances, authorities are declining to release certain details of the active investigation, but indicate that they will be releasing more information about the incident later.

With the recent rise of vaping devices being used to inhale drugs ranging from Methamphetamines to THC Oil to Synthetic Marijuana, it is likely this warrant could be part of an official response to the trend in our schools, though no official statement identifies why they were executing a search warrant. The District Attorney’s office is currently undertaking a series of assemblies at the middle and high schools of Pickens, Fannin, and Gilmer.

At this point, it is actually quite common to find controlled substances in vape devices across America, especially in schools as reports continue to flood the media about students falling unconscious or having severe reactions, even seizures because of what they may or may not know they are inhaling.

See the full media release below:

“Pickens County law enforcement have encountered a suspected unknown powder substance during execution of a search warrant – Deputies and other public safety adversely affected.”

On the morning of Friday, September 14, 2018, the Drug Task Force, along with the Pickens Sheriff’s Office and the City of Jasper Police Department executed a search warrant at the A-1 Smoke Shop located at 684 West Church Street in Jasper, Georgia. During the search of the premises, a Detective with the Pickens Sheriff’s Office came in contact with an unknown substance which immediately resulted in the Detective experiencing adverse health conditions and symptoms. The affected Detective was transported to the local hospital for immediate treatment. Public safety personnel who were exposed while treating the affected Detective also began experiencing similar reactions. As of this release, two Detectives, a DTF Agent and two EMS personnel are being treated now for symptoms.

The Cherokee County Hazardous Materials Team has dispatched to the scene to assist, along with all surrounding public safety agencies including the Pickens Fire & EMS and City of Jasper Fire. Businesses in close proximity to the location have been evacuated as a safety precaution, and Haz-Mat teams are preparing to enter the premises to thoroughly investigate and identify the cause of the health issues with our public safety personnel.

As this is an active investigation, more information will be provided as it becomes available.

Author

GDOT proposed plans for a new McCaysville-Copperhill truck route

News, Press Release

Public encouraged to attend the meeting.

Blue Ridge, Ga–  A public information open house to view the proposed project to improve State Route (SR) 5 and construct a new location truck route in Fannin County, Georgia and in Polk County, Tennessee is scheduled for Tuesday, September 11, 2018, from 4 to 7 p.m. The meeting will be held at the McCaysville Church of God, located at 1477 Blue Ridge Drive in the city of Blue Ridge, Georgia.

Residents interested in learning more about the proposed project are encouraged to attend the meeting and to visit the website at www.dot.ga.gov.

The proposed project will improve State Route 5 from Old Flowers Road to Colton Avenue by resurfacing the existing two lanes on this portion and constructing 10-foot wide shoulders with 16-inch rumble strips for driver notification of roadway departure. The proposed project will transition to two lanes with curb and gutter with 5-foot sidewalks on both sides. At the intersection of SR 5 and School Street, the project proposes the installation of a roundabout. To learn more about the benefits of roundabouts, visit http://www.dot.ga.gov/DS/SafetyOperation/Roundabouts. The proposed improvements continue northeast along the existing SR 5/Blue Ridge Drive alignment for approximately 0.4 miles to the Toccoa Avenue.

The project also proposes to construct a two-lane truck route along a new location alignment approximately 1.1 miles in length beginning at the proposed roundabout on existing SR 5 at School Street. The roadway continues northwest crossing into Tennessee, then turns to the northeast and bridges over W Tennessee Ave, the Ocoee River, the existing railroad and Tennessee SR 68/Ocoee Street. The roadway then loops around toward the southeast and ties into Tennessee SR 68/Ocoee Street near Colonial Avenue where a second roundabout is proposed.

Grant Waldrop, district engineer at the Georgia DOT office in Cartersville explains, “This meeting will provide the public with an opportunity to review the proposed project and see how the improvements will accommodate taking truck movements out of downtown McCaysville/Copperhill as well as enhance economic development opportunities within Fannin and Polk Counties and the Appalachian region by providing operational improvements along the corridor which may lessen crash frequency and severity.”

The Open House will be informal and the public is invited to attend anytime between 4 and 7 p.m.  The meeting site is accessible to persons with disabilities.  Accommodations for people with disabilities can be arranged with advance notice by calling Joseph Ciavarro at 678-721-5164.

Written statements will be accepted concerning this project until Tuesday, September 25, 2018. Written statements may be submitted to:

Mr. Eric Duff, State Environmental Administrator
Georgia Department of Transportation
Office of Environmental Services
600 West Peachtree Street, NW – 16th Floor
Atlanta, Georgia 30308

Georgia Department of Transportation plans, constructs and maintains Georgia’s state and federal highways. We’re involved in bridge, waterway, public transit, rail, general aviation, bike, and pedestrian programs. And we help local governments maintain their roads. Georgia DOT is committed to providing a safe, seamless and sustainable transportation system that supports Georgia’s economy and is sensitive to its citizens and its environment.

GDOT: Edge pavement repair begins on GA 60 in Fannin County

Press Release

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – A Georgia DOT Maintenance crew begins today its work on repairing the deteriorating edges of pavement on State Route (SR) 60 in Murray County.  Work will proceed daily Tuesday through Friday between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., weather permitting.

Edge repair is a maintenance activity that is intended to guard against pavement failure along the edges due to the action of traffic and the loss of edge support that occurs due to the presence of water, aggressive-growth vegetation, and wind from either traffic or the atmosphere.  Georgia DOT’s edge repairs are designed to minimize the effects of shoulder drop offs and maximize the safety of the roadway for the traveling public.

You know that construction work zones are dangerous, but do you know that they are not always stationary? Moving work zones that conduct maintenance activities like litter pickup, asphalt repair, mowing, edge pavement repair, pavement marking and sweeping may move slowly and stop intermittently. Treat moving work zones like any other – Pay Attention – Slow Down – Watch for Workers.  And always, expect the unexpected. Work zone safety is in your hands. 

Georgia DOT repairs the pavement on State Route 60

Press Release

GDOT: Edge pavement repair begins in Fannin County 

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – A Georgia DOT Maintenance crew begins today its work on repairing the deteriorating edges of pavement on State Route (SR) 60 in Fannin County.  Work will proceed daily Tuesday through Friday between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., weather permitting.

Edge repair is a maintenance activity that is intended to guard against pavement failure along the edges due to the action of traffic and the loss of edge support that occurs due to the presence of water, aggressive-growth vegetation, and wind from either traffic or the atmosphere.  Georgia DOT’s edge repairs are designed to minimize the effects of
shoulder drop offs and maximize the safety of the roadway for the traveling public.

You know that construction work zones are dangerous, but do you know that they are not always stationary? Moving work zones that conduct maintenance activities like litter pickup, asphalt repair, mowing, edge pavement repair, pavement marking and sweeping may move slowly and stop intermittently. Treat moving work zones like any other – Pay Attention – Slow Down – Watch for Workers.  And always, expect the unexpected. Work zone safety is in your hands.

Benton MacKaye Trail Association Press Release

Community

PRESS RELEASE:

The Benton MacKaye Trail Association (BMTA) is seeking volunteers to help with trail maintenance for an upcoming work trip.

According to Barry Allen, Georgia work trip coordinator for the BMTA, a work trip is planned for Saturday, Dec. 9, on a section of trail near Fall Branch Falls in Fannin County. This month’s Georgia work trip will focus on completing the re-route at Fall Branch Falls. Allen stated there are a few more steps needing to be installed, which will require hauling timbers, along with a 50-foot section of trail to dig. Also, a number of water diversions just upstream from the falls will be put in place.

Allen hopes to have work completed for the day around lunchtime and mentioned he would bring his grill with him if the weather is nice to grill some burgers and brats for a post-work lunch.

All work trip participants are asked to wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeve pants and shirts, work gloves and, for cold-weather trips, multiple thin layers that can be easily shed one at a time. Also, a daypack for storing food, water or other items is always a good idea for work trips. Food and water are not supplied by the BMTA on work trips; however, tools are provided by the Association. The BMTA recommends workers to bring at least two liters of water for the trip.

Those interested can meet either at The Iron Bridge Café and General Store on Aska Road across from Shallowford Bridge, at 8:00 a.m. or at Fall Branch Falls at 9 a.m.

The Benton MacKaye Trail spans three states – Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina – and nearly 300 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Davenport Gap in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is enjoyed by thousands of hikers and outdoor enthusiasts each year.

For anyone with questions or needing further information, contact Barry Allen at bmtabarry@gmail.com or 770-294-7384.

Benton MacKaye Trail Association (BMTA) Press Release

Community

PRESS RELEASE:

The Benton MacKaye Trail Association (BMTA) is seeking volunteers to help with trail maintenance for an upcoming work trip.

According to Barry Allen, Georgia work trip coordinator for the BMTA, a work trip is planned for Saturday, Nov. 25, on a section of trail within the Big Frog Wilderness Area in Tennessee. Blowovers and downed trees will be the focus of the work trip, and Allen hopes to assemble a team of six to seven sawyers to work the trail south of Forest Service Road 221. Participants in this trip can expect about a five-mile out and back hike, Allen said.

Depending on the turnout and the number of certified crosscut workers, a second team may work another section of the BMT that follows Dry Pond Lead Trail north to Kimsey Hwy. (FS 68). Allen stated this section has not been worked in over a year and will likely also need lopper work even if only a few trees are down. This section is four miles one way and is a gradual uphill climb.

All work trip participants are asked to wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeve pants and shirts, work gloves and, for cold-weather trips, multiple thin layers that can be easily shed one at a time. Also, a daypack for storing food, water or other items is always a good idea for work trips. Food and water are not supplied by the BMTA on work trips. The BMTA recommends workers to bring at least two quarts of water for the trip.

Those interested can meet either at The Home Depot in Blue Ridge, Georgia, at 8:30 a.m. or at Thunder Rock Campground eight miles west of Ducktown, Tennessee, off of U.S. Hwy. 64 at 9 a.m.

The Benton MacKaye Trail spans three states – Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina – and nearly 300 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Davenport Gap in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is enjoyed by thousands of hikers and outdoor enthusiasts each year.

For anyone with questions or needing further information, contact Barry Allen at bmtabarry@gmail.com.

Georgia DOT begins edge pavement repair in Fannin early next week

Community, Press Release

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – A Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT) maintenance crew begins this morning its work on repairing the deteriorating edges of pavement on state Route (SR) 60 in Fannin County. Work will proceed today (Nov. 21) and tomorrow between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., weather permitting.

Edge repair is a maintenance activity that is intended to guard against pavement failure along the edges due to the action of traffic and the loss of edge support that occurs due to the presence of water, aggressive-growth vegetation and wind from either traffic or the atmosphere.  Georgia DOT’s edge repairs are designed to minimize the effects of
shoulder drop offs and maximize the safety of the roadway for the traveling public.

You know that construction work zones are dangerous, but do you know that they are not always stationary? Moving work zones that conduct maintenance activities like litter pickup, asphalt repair, mowing, edge pavement repair, pavement marking and sweeping may move slowly and stop intermittently. Treat moving work zones like any other – Pay Attention – Slow Down – Watch for Workers.  And always, expect the unexpected. Work zone safety is in your hands. For information on the Department of Transportation, visit http://www.dot.ga.gov.  You also may like us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/GDOTNW) and follow us on Twitter(https://twitter.com/GDOTNW).

“Operation Rattlesnake” Targets On-line Child Predators

Press Release

“Operation Rattlesnake” Targets On-line Child Predators

Decatur, GA (10/10/17) – As a result of a proactive undercover investigation coordinated by the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit (CEACC), the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, and the Hall County District Attorney’s Office, five (5) people were arrested over a four-day period beginning Thursday, October 5, 2017.  Those arrested were charged with O.C.G.A. 16-12-100.2, Computer or Electronic Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act of 2007.  Additional charges may be forthcoming.

“Operation Rattlesnake” was a four-day proactive effort centered in Hall County, GA.  The operation took several months of planning.  The arrestees, ranging in age from 23 to 58, traveled from areas around metro Atlanta with the intent to meet a child for sex.  One person that was arrested was a registered sex offender with previous convictions for child molestation and statutory rape.

The goal of “Operation Rattlesnake” was to arrest persons who communicate with children on-line and then travel to meet them for the purpose of having sex.  In addition, the operation targeted those that are willing to exploit children by purchasing sex with a minor. On-line child predators visit chat rooms and websites on the internet, find children, begin conversations with them, introduce sexual content and arrange a meeting with the children for the purpose of having sex.  The children these predators target are both boys and girls.  Since 2014, the Georgia ICAC Task Force has arrested over 100 people in similar operations.  

Over the course of the multi-day operation, investigators had almost 300 exchanges with subjects on various social media or internet platforms. More than 60 of those were exchanges in which the subject initiated contact with whom they believed to be a minor and directed the conversation towards sex. In some of those cases, the subject introduced obscene or lude content, often exposing the minor (UC) to pornography or requesting the child take nude or pornographic images for them. More than 170 exchanges involved websites used for dating, socializing, or even websites used for classified advertisements.  Although some websites promote themselves as being for “adults-only” it is not uncommon for law enforcement to work cases in which children access these sites, establish profiles claiming to be older, and then find themselves vulnerable to victimization, harassment, blackmail, or assault. More than a dozen subjects were identified as communicating simultaneously with multiple investigators posing as minors. Such activity confirms what investigators uncover conducting these types of investigations: that many predators specifically seek out minors on such websites to groom them as potential victims for sexual contact.

Along with those agencies who participated in the planning and coordinating of the operation, eleven (11) additional law enforcement agencies participated in “Operation Rattlesnake” as members of the Georgia ICAC Task Force. These agencies were:

    1. Brookhaven Police Department
    2. Coweta County Sheriff’s Office
    3. Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office
    4. Gainesville Police Department
    5. Georgia Information Sharing and Analysis Center (GISAC)
    6. Hall County Solicitor’s Office
    7. Hall Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad
    8. LaGrange Police Department
    9. Oakwood Police Department
    10. Richmond County Sheriff’s Office
    11. Roswell Police Department

The proactive on-line investigation was a coordinated effort among the participating law enforcement agencies to combat this activity.  Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch stated, “This operation is a prime example of interagency planning and cooperation.  I am proud that we were able to host the task force at our facility to carry it out.  Moreover, I hope that these arrests send a loud and clear message: the exploitation of children will not be tolerated in Hall County.  We look forward to working with the ICAC task force whenever needed to stop these predators. Hall County is a great community and we will work relentlessly to ensure that it remains a safe place for our children.” GBI Special Agent in Charge, and Commander of the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, Debbie Garner remarked “The Hall County Sheriff’s Office is one of our most active member agencies.  We appreciate their daily efforts to combat child exploitation.  This type of cooperation and collaboration is invaluable in the effort to keep our children safe from predators who seek to harm them.  This successful operation was a partnership between all the agencies involved. We will continue to aggressively work together to protect our children.”  

The following were arrested and charged in Hall County as part of “Operation Rattlesnake”:

  1. Melo Hairapetian, W/M, Morris, IL, 28 years of age, construction worker
  2. Baribefe Monkpe, B/M, Lawrenceville, GA, 23 years of age, employment unknown
  3. Anthony Jordan, W/M, Newnan, GA, 37 years of age, unemployed
  4. Drake Cook, W/M, Athens, GA, 23 years of age, retail store employee
  5. James Herndon, W/M, Flowery Branch, GA, 58 years of age, pharmacist

The Georgia ICAC Task Force is comprised of 200+ local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, other related criminal justice agencies and prosecutor’s offices.  The mission of the ICAC Task Force, created by the U. S. Department of Justice and managed and operated by the GBI in Georgia, is to assist state and local law enforcement agencies in developing an effective response to cyber enticement and child pornography cases. This support encompasses forensic and investigative components, training and technical assistance, victim services, prevention and community education. The ICAC Program was developed in response to the increasing number of children and teenagers using the internet, the proliferation of child pornography, and the heightened online activity by predators searching for unsupervised contact with underage victims. By helping state and local law enforcement agencies develop effective and sustainable responses to online child victimization and child pornography, the ICAC program delivers national resources at the local level.  Arrests made by the Georgia ICAC Task Force have been steadily increasing over the last 3 years.  In 2014, the GA ICAC Task Force made 196 arrests.  The Georgia ICAC Task Force made 244 arrests in 2015, and in 2016, the Georgia ICAC Task Force made 340 arrests. The Georgia ICAC Task Force has made over 2,000 arrests since its inception in 2002.  

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