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Georgia State University profusely apologized on Wednesday for a student art project that Atlanta police treated as a suspicious package, leading them to close one of the nation's most jampacked freeways for 2½ hours before they blew up the installation. And there could be more of them around the city, authorities said Wednesday.
Atlanta police said they received no advance notice that art students were going to tape a cylindrical object Monday to the outside of the 14th Street Bridge, which feeds both Interstate 75 and Interstate 85 as they converge in the heart of downtown Atlanta. In fact, Assistant Police Chief Shawn Jones said, they didn't know what they'd blown up until Tuesday — the next day.
All traffic on both interstates was blocked, as was traffic on 14th Street, from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday. Not knowing what the device was, police sent in the bomb squad to blow it up. The security scare shut down a combined 16 lanes of freeway in the middle of the day.
The suspicious device turned out to be a student pinhole camera that was part of an art photography project, Georgia State said — one of 18 that students dotted around the Atlanta area as part of a class assignment.
The cameras were described as 12-ounce cans wrapped in duct tape. Wednesday, police in Hapeville, near Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, reported that they called in their bomb squad after a second camera was found on a bridge there.
"We are working with Georgia State University to remove all art projects related to this class from public property immediately," said Jones, who said university students or officials could be charged with reckless behavior or causing a false public alarm.
In a statement, Georgia State said it "sincerely apologizes for the traffic problems" the camera caused and said it is "closely cooperating" with police to make sure all of the 18 cameras are removed.
Jones told reporters that the police legal department was reviewing whether to seek reimbursement from the university.