Officials discuss strategies to tackle ongoing problems at Clarkston condominium complex

Officials are discussing possible next steps to help residents of a Clarkston condominium complex that has been plagued by fire, illegal dumping and crime – most recently with a shooting that left three people dead and three others injured.

At a May 17 meeting attended by DeKalb County commissioners, law enforcement officials gave updates on what they have learned since the shooting took place at Brannon Hill Condominium complex on May 8.

“All three of the injured survived and are recovering,” said Assistant Chief of Police DeKalb County Police Gregory Padrick. “Detectives responded, conducted their investigation and as a result identified two shooters. One is a 20-year-old male who is currently not in custody, but we’re working with the sheriff’s office fugitive unit to bring him into custody. The motive appears to be related to a dispute where individuals left and then went back to (Brannon Hill Condominiums) and the shooting eventually took place.”

On May 9, officials with DeKalb County Police Department announced that one suspect, 25-year-old Ofieo Ojego, is in custody and charged with one count of murder and one count of aggravated assault.

At press time, police were still searching for the second suspect, identified as Ajang Ruach.

Officials confirmed that no surveillance footage captured the crimes.

Much of the discussion at the meeting centered on DeKalb County’s efforts to eradicate blight, assist with repairs and demolitions, and provide food and other necessities to Brannon Hill residents – efforts that DeKalb County Commissioner Ted Terry said, “is just triage.”

“Everyone is focused on how we’ve got to take care of blight,” said Terry. “It’s more than just blight. It’s public safety, water, sanitation issues and more. A blight strategy is simply not enough.”

DeKalb County officials explained during the meeting that attempting to buy Brannon Hill would likely end similarly to the outcome when the county attempted to buy the vacant Blue Sky Condominiums on Memorial Drive.

“When the county attempted to buy the Blue Sky Condominium complex, we went in with federal funds and purchased units but ran into the problem of not being able to find all of the owners of each unit in the buildings,” stated officials. “Every building had someone we couldn’t find, so we couldn’t own the entire building and after years of trying we had to shut down the project. It is very challenging in condominiums to find absentee owners.”

Officials stated trying to purchase Brannon Hill would pose an even bigger challenge because unlike at Blue Sky, many of the units are still occupied by owners and renters.

Although the suggestion of applying eminent domain – which could allow local government to acquire Brannon Hill – was discussed, officials stated it was “not a viable option considering the cost and complexity.”

Terry said the ideal situation would be to replace each building at Brannon Hill on site so as not to displace any current residents.

“Brannon Hill is begging for more attention if I go back and look, I can find six years’ worth of emails and different (DeKalb County) CEOs saying Brannon Hill is a top priority, but it isn’t,” said Terry. “I’ve said this, and many commissioners have said this: Memorial Drive revitalization will not happen if Brannon Hill continues to be the center of crime and a source of dilapidation. I haven’t seen any public safety strategy and at the very least we could get video surveillance.”

The discussion ended with officials stating they would bring more ideas to a future meeting.

According to demographics and information collected in 2018, Brannon Hill is home to mostly Somalian and Ethiopian residents as well as other immigrants and refugees.

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