Federal authorities are investigating a Lilburn man for allegedly plotting to attack the Gwinnett County Justice and Administration Center.
Samuel Lahey, 26, is in federal custody after a search of his home about two weeks ago turned up weapons, silencers, drugs and writings saying that he planned to attack a Gwinnett government building, authorities said.
Lahey was wanted for the theft of firearm silencers when he was arrested Feb. 9 for allegedly shoplifting at a Wal-Mart, according to Snellville Police Chief Roy Whitehead. Lahey tried to run away from an officer inside the store and was tackled with the help of two bystanders, Whitehead said.
During the struggle, a gun and military-style knife allegedly fell out of Lahey’s jacket. He was charged with shoplifting, obstruction of law enforcement, carrying a concealed weapon and possession of a firearm during a crime.
Two days later, the arresting officer recognized Lahey from a federal bulletin and alerted federal investigators.
Maj. Kirk Williamson of the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office said the threat was not specific, but he described it as “disturbing.” He said court security officials are taking it seriously. The Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center houses the offices of the board of commissioners; the clerk of court; and superior, state and magistrate courtrooms, among other county offices.
“Right now our security is the same because he’s still in custody,” Williamson said. “If he gets out that would change a little bit. He certainly has our attention.”
Williamson said the motive for the alleged plan to attack may have been related to a prior criminal case in which Lahey was granted first offender status. In a first offender case, a defendant is allowed to avoid a felony conviction if he or she successfully completes the terms of a sentence.
Lahey’s case involved a shoplifting charge to which Lahey pleaded guilty in 2008 for trying to leave a hardware store without paying for a nail gun. Lahey pleaded guilty at the same time to theft by receiving for allegedly trying to sell three guitars that had been reported stolen.
Three and a half years into his four-year sentence for the two offenses, court records show Lahey was accused of parole violation when his urine tested positive for the drug methadone. Superior Court Judge R. Timothy Hamil sentenced him to serve the remainder of his time on probation in a residential drug treatment program at his own expense.
A few days later, Lahey mailed a handwritten motion to the court asking the judge to reconsider. Lahey wrote that the treatment program was “financially restrictive,” and indicated being gone from work might interfere with his job as a plumber’s apprentice and his ability to pay child support for his 6-year-old son.
Hamil denied the request. Court records show Lahey did enter drug treatment and complete it. His case was discharged in May 2012.
Snellville Police and the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office declined to elaborate on Lahey’s alleged threat and referred further questions to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
An ATF spokesman did not respond by Thursday evening.