Andrew Wordes set off the blast on Monday as marshals were preparing to kick him out of the Roswell house that was in foreclosure, a last act of defiance by a man who seemed to relish fighting the government.
“This was the first step of our larger legal battle to keep his home,” said Wordes’ attorney, Ryan Strickland. “He had options. He had a way out. And he had a good case.”
Strickland said he met Wordes last week and pledged to help him avoid eviction. The legal filing on Monday wasn’t going to resolve the case, he said, but it was an important step to stop the eviction from going forward.
“It’s overwhelmingly sad,” Strickland said. “It’s one of the most stressful things someone can go through — the prospect of losing your house and finding somewhere else to live. I can only imagine what he was feeling.”
Wordes had become well-known for his fight to keep poultry, goats and pigs at his home in Roswell. Former Gov. Roy Barnes took his case against the city to court, and he attracted far-flung supporters who read about his case online.
He won the right to raise chickens on his property, but the 53-year-old continued to fight the government over flood damage to his property and attempts to evict him from the foreclosed home. He went to jail for three months last year for violating probation after pleading guilty to a grading violation, and received the eviction notice shortly after he was released.
Neighbors appreciated the fresh eggs he delivered to them, and some were amused by antics that included writing “FEMA HELP US” on his roof after getting flood damage. But others were annoyed by the crowing of roosters — and the coyotes that his animals attracted.
“It just spiraled out of control,” said neighbor John Cherok. “He was fighting just to fight and it was all adding up.”
The animals were long gone on Monday when marshals came to his house to evict him. After a two-hour standoff, he asked a local reporter who was covering the eviction to warn the marshals to back away from the house. Then, fire officials believe he poured gasoline in the house and lit it on fire, causing the deadly blast.
The medical examiner’s office on Tuesday identified Wordes as the victim of the blast. Wordes’ family members declined to comment.
Roswell Mayor Jere Wood said Wordes’ death was a sad day for the north Atlanta city.
“He was a gentle person who was passionate about his causes,” said Wood, who was close friends with Wordes even though the two were sometimes at political odds. “This was a surprising and shocking end. I didn’t see this coming.”