A man who formed a one-person anarchist organization that aimed to "free the oppressed minority population of Atlanta" may have been behind a fire that destroyed two condo buildings at Midtown's Atlantic Station last summer, the FBI said Tuesday.
The investigation into the blaze continues, however, because others also may be involved in the arson, FBI spokesman Stephen Emmett said.
The agency had begun looking into Gregory Steven Clark ever since they identified him as a suspect in the violent holdup of a Wachovia bank in September.
During their investigation, agents discovered that Clark had "indicated an interest" in robbing banks to fund the activities of the Neo Millennium Liberation Army, whose stated goal was to "free the oppressed minority population of Atlanta."
Emmett would not go into how authorities tied Clark to the arson but said the agency's probe into the robbery led them to consider him a suspect.
Clark, 40, fatally shot himself Nov. 8 when agents surrounded the Midtown hotel where he was staying and asked him to surrender.
Because of his death, "we are obviously no longer considering him a threat and are redirecting our investigation energies toward other individuals who were either involved in or had knowledge of the fire," Emmett said Tuesday evening.
The four-alarm fire broke out shortly before dawn on July 24. In one building, 322 condos under construction were destroyed. A few hours later, a blaze on the roof of the nearby Art Foundry damaged about 80 units.
No one was hurt, but the intense heat melted 20 parked cars' paint and destroyed them. Damage estimates topped $5 million.
Two days after the fire, State Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John Oxendine ruled the blaze an arson. This month, the agency raised the reward for information to $100,000.
Oxendine's spokesman Glen Allen said Tuesday he was aware that Clark was a "person of interest." But the reward will stand "until there is an arrest and conviction or until it is definitively established that Clark was behind it," he said.
Clark came to the FBI's attention after police suspected he robbed the Wachovia branch on Monroe Drive on Sept. 2, armed with a military-style assault rifle.
According to the agency, 15 minutes before the 10 a.m. holdup, a man twice called 911 and said there was a bomb at the Peachtree Center MARTA station. He then said "NMLA --- Neo-Millennium Liberation Army" --- and hung up.
During their investigation, investigators learned that Clark was fascinated by the robberies in which suspects wearing body armor shoot it out with police. Authorities, however, have not been able to determine whether NMLA exists.