The family of a 26-year-old activist killed after allegedly shooting a state trooper who was clearing demonstrators from the wooded site of Atlanta’s “Cop City” reportedly released private autopsy results and filed a lawsuit that disputes authorities’ account of events.
The relatives of Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, who reportedly went by the name “Tortuguita” and identified as non-binary, are calling on the Georgian Bureau of Investigation (GBI) to release its investigative report.
At a press conference in front of the DeKalb County Courthouse, civil rights attorneys Brian Spears and Jeff Filipovits said a private autopsy revealed that Teran had been shot 14 separate times in various locations, including the head through the right eye, left upper chest, abdomen, arms and legs, FOX 5 Atlanta reported.
The attorneys claim the wounds show Teran’s left arm and hand were raised with the palm facing forward during the shooting.
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“Manuel was looking death in the face, hands raised, when killed,” Spears said, according to the outlet. They also contend Teran died while his legs were crossed.
“I never thought that Manuel could die in a meditation position. My heart is destroyed,” Teran’s mother, Belkis Teran, said at the press conference.
The lawyers accuse the GBI of launching a “coordinated campaign” to prevent the Atlanta Police Department from releasing further body camera footage of the incident.
Teran’s family filed a lawsuit last week against the city of Atlanta to demand more information under the Georgia Open Records Act.
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“The only people who know what happened in the forest that day are the officers who were present and the GBI, who is investigating,” Filipovits said.
“During its investigation, the GBI has selectively released information framing its narrative while actively preventing Manuel’s family from obtaining any information,” Filipovits added. “The GBI will not even tell us what type of evidence it has. Now, it says that the city of Atlanta cannot release the public records sought by Manuel’s family.”
Georgia State Patrol responded to the construction site of the future Atlanta Public Safety Training Center on Jan. 18 to clear out demonstrators. Authorities said Teran shot a trooper in the abdomen before law enforcement officials returned fire and killed Teran. His death prompted violent demonstrations in downtown Atlanta days later.
“All the facts, to include any information brought forward by the family’s attorney, will be assessed along with all other investigative information by the special prosecutor,” a GBI spokesperson said in a statement Friday, according to FOX 5. “The GBI cannot and will not attempt to sway public opinion in this case but will continue to be led by the facts and truth. We understand the extreme emotion that this has caused Teran’s family and will continue to investigate as comprehensively as possible.”
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Earlier this month, chaos ensued at the site of the public safety training center yet again when authorities said a group of group agitators changed into black clothing and allegedly began to throw commercial-grade fireworks, Molotov cocktails, large rocks and bricks at police officers. Equipment was also set on fire and destroyed.
Of the 23 people charged with domestic terrorism in the incident, just two were from Georgia.