SWAT standoff in Athens ends, suspect in custody

- A man has been taken into custody following a SWAT standoff in Athens. 

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The situation began Thursday morning when the Athens-Clarke County Police Department's SWAT team attempted to serve a "high risk" arrest and search warrant at the home of Benjamin Blackburn, 49, inside the Falling Shoals subdivision.

Blackburn allegedly barricaded himself in the house located in the 300 block of Ironwood Way and was armed with multiple weapons, according to police. There were no hostages, as one person was able to get out of the house unharmed, according to officials.

Authorities were able to make contact with Blackburn, but said it was clear that negotiations would not be enough to coax him out of the home.  Police deployed multiple rounds of pepper spray into the house, but said it was not until a small fire started inside the home that Blackburn came outside. 

"Once that fire started inside the residence, is when the suspect then came out of the residence and was taken into custody peacefully," said ACCPD Public Information Officer Epifanio Rodriguez. 

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was called in to look into the cause of the fire. 

Officers transported Blackburn to a local hospital for evaluation.

Officer Rodriguez credited the SWAT team's training and professionalism with their ability to end the situation. 

"They handled this exactly the way they were supposed to handle this and it shows that after a four-hour standoff this was able to end peacefully with no one getting seriously hurt," he explained. 

According to police, Blackburn was wanted for aggravated assault for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend in early June.  He also has active warrants against him out of Texas for probation violation.  

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