‘Cop City’ protester Manuel Terán shot at least 13 times by police – autopsy
The environmental activist who was killed by police in Atlanta while protesting against Georgia’s planned “Cop City” was shot more than a dozen times, according to private autopsy results released by his family.
Officers from multiple agencies shot and killed Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, also known as Tortuguita, on 18 January after authorities moved through the camp of activists who were in a forest to protest a planned $90m police training facility. Dozens of officers from the Atlanta police department, the Dekalb county police, the Georgia state patrol, the Georgia bureau of investigation and the FBI swept through the camp.
Related: Georgia is seeking to define ‘Cop City’ protests as terrorism, experts say
According to police, Paez shot and injured a state trooper with a handgun first. However, Georgia’s bureau of investigation – or GBI – has said the shooting was not captured on body camera, prompting activists to call for an outside entity to review the case.
A private autopsy that has since been performed on Paez’s body revealed that several different officers shot him at least 13 times.
“Manny was a kind person who helped anyone who needed it,” said a statement attributed to Paez’s mother, Belkis Terán, which was released Friday. “He was a pacifist. They say he shot a police officer. I do not believe it.”
Terán added that authorities haven’t taken the time to “privately explain” to her family how her son was killed.
The limited release of official information as described by Terán has also raised many questions among the family’s supporters.
A statement from civil rights attorney Jeff Filipovits argued that the GBI, which is leading the investigation into Paez’s killing, has so far “selectively released information about Manny’s death”.
“They claim Manny failed to follow orders,” said the statement from Filipovits, who is representing Paez’s family. “What orders? The GBI has not talked about the fact that Manny faced a firing squad, when those shots were fired, or who fired them?”
Paez’s family has since requested the GBI release any related audio and video footage surrounding his killing. “Any evidence, even if it is only an audio recording, will help the family piece together what happened on the morning of January 18. This information is critical, and it is being withheld,” said attorney Brian Spears, who is working with Filipovits.
Since the Atlanta city council voted to approve the 85-acre Cop City project in 2021, the local government has been met with a slew of opposition from activists seeking to protect the natural resources of the forest where the facility is supposed to be built.
Last December, a handful of activists protesting there were arrested and charged with “domestic terrorism” under state law, an unprecedented move in US environmental activism.
According to experts, Paez’s death was the first time that an environmental activist has been killed by police in US history, signaling an alarming crackdown on environmental activists across the country.