THOMASVILLE HEIGHTS — Usually, people are wanting to break out of prison, not break in.
But Atlanta police report that one of its officers thwarted what seemed to be four people trying to smuggle items — including two loaded handguns — into the U.S. Federal Penitentiary.
Prison officials say all inmates are accounted for and and that their movements are restricted at the minimum security complex as the matter is being investigated.
It's unclear if any of the men were employees or inmates.
"We do take the matter seriously," Chris Burke, a Bureau of Prisons spokesman, told East Atlanta Patch Tuesday. "We're working with the FBI and local law enforcement to determine what happened, how it happened and to make sure it doesn't happen again."
APD Zone 3 Officer Mercure, who was on routine patrol on New Town Circle, noticed a white Oldsmobile Alero parked along side the curb, next to a fence around the work camp of the penitentiary at about 12:30 a.m., Atlanta Police Department spokesman Carlos Campos said.
The prison, which is in Chosewood Park, fronts McDonough Boulevard and abuts New Town Circle to the east at the border of the Thomasville Heights neighborhood.
The officer saw four men, who were wearing gray sweatpants and shirts, black ski masks and black gloves, at the fence, appearing to be smuggling items into the medium security prison via the fence.
When the officer turned on the spotlight on the Alero, the four men ran, three of them scaling the fence back onto the prison property.
The fourth man fled in the Alero, ditched it a short time later and fled on foot.
Inside the vehicle, police found:
- 24 mobile phones
- four 30-packs of light beer
- three cases of whiskey
- multiple bags of protein powder
- two handguns loaded with hollow point ammunition.
It's not yet determined if the vehicle and the contents were stolen, police said, adding federal investigators are leading the probe.
The key question is how could such an operation take place at the prison, which, like other federal installations, has cameras and guards.
Burke said the prison is comprised of three facilities: the main prison, a detention center, which houses the the penitentiary's administrative functions and the prison camp, the area where the smuggling attempt occurred.
The prison camp is the least secured of the three, Burke said.
FBI Special Agent Stephen Emmett, the Atlanta bureau's spokesman, said Tuesday he could not discuss the case, which is under investigation.
Stay with Patch for updates to this story.