The FBI is investigating two out-of-state men charged in relation to an alleged mass looting attempt in Sandy Springs during nearby Atlanta rioting May 30, according to local police.

The incident involved a large group of people entering the parking lot of the Fountain Oaks shopping center at 4920 Roswell Road around 4:40 a.m. and some of them allegedly attempting to enter stores. The Sandy Springs Police Department says most of the people fled, while two were arrested and are currently charged with minor offenses.

Both suspects are 26 years old. One is from Chicago and one is from Kansas City, Missouri. The initial charges against them do not include anything related to breaking and entering or vandalism. Both were charged with “loitering and prowling” — essentially meaning they were considered to be acting suspiciously — and one with disorderly conduct.

However, SSPD spokesperson Sgt. Salvador Ortega said that more charges are possible and that the FBI is involved.

“We are in contact with the FBI and they might get prosecuted federally,” he said.

Kevin Rowson, a spokesperson for the FBI’s Atlanta office, said the agency does not confirm or deny the existence of specific investigations. He also would not say whether the FBI has made any arrests in metro Atlanta related to recent rioting or looting. However, he provided a written statement that broadly indicates the FBI is investigating looting cases.

“The FBI Atlanta Field Office is supporting our state, local and federal law enforcement partners with maintaining public safety in the communities we serve,” Rowson wrote. “Our efforts are focused on identifying, investigating and disrupting individuals that are inciting violence and engaging in criminal activity. We are not focused on peaceful protests.”

The suspects could not immediately be reached for comment.

Exactly what SSPD believes happened in the incident remains unclear. In response to an Open Records request, the department provided only an initial report for one of the two arrests, claiming the rest of the material remains confidential due to the investigation. The report, about the arrest of the man from Kansas City, indicates it happened in the area of the Kroger supermarket in the shopping center. But it contains no mention of looting or breaking-and-entering. It specifically says no weapons or tools were involved in the alleged offenses.

Besides the alleged looting attempt at Fountain Oaks, there were two nearby commercial burglaries — at a cellphone store and a pharmacy — that SSPD believes may be related.

Plywood covers a hole in a glass door where burglars entered a Walgreens store at 4535 Roswell Road on the night of May 29-30 in a crime Sandy Springs Police suspect may have been related to looting that followed protests in Atlanta. (File)

The incidents happened around the time that rioters looted Phipps Plaza mall and other shopping locations about 3 miles away in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood, during protests over the police-involved killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. All of the Sandy Springs incidents happened within a mile of the Buckhead border.

Also around the same time, a large number of vehicles with obscured, missing or out-of-state license plates appeared in the area of Dunwoody’s Perimeter Mall, and a commercial burglary occurred at a nearby shopping center, according to police there.

The FBI is not investigating the Dunwoody incidents, according to Dunwoody Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Robert Parsons.

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.