No Charges filed Against Georgia State Troopers Who Killed Cop City Rioter

A special prosecutor determined no charges will be filed against the six Georgia State Patrol troopers who shot and killed “an environmental protestor” at the proposed site of what has been consistently reported as the controversial Atlanta Public Safety Training Center.

Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, who went by “Tortuguita,” along with many other protestors, had, for many months, occupied the area that would be the site of the training center, dubbed “Cop City” by critics. Terán was shot and killed by six Georgia State Troopers on Jan. 18 when the officers raided the area, sometimes described as a “campground.”

The Stone Mountain Circuit District Attorney’s Office investigated the incident for months and concluded that the troopers’ use of lethal force was “objectively reasonable under the circumstances of the case.” The District Attorney’s Office issued an official 31-page report substantiating its conclusions and recommendations, which can be read in full here.

As an example of one of the facts relied upon for reaching its conclusion, the report references that officials claim “the troopers spoke with Tortuguita, who refused to leave and zipped up the tent in which they were living.”

At least one officer fired pepper balls at the tents. Officials say that “the environmental activist fired multiple shots – hitting Georgia State Patrol Trooper Jerry Parrish below his armor plate and above his belt on his right side and lodging the bullet in his spine.” The troopers then returned fire, hitting and killing Tortuguita.

In a new report released Friday, the Stone Mountain Circuit District Attorney’s Office says they found that the troopers “did not act with any criminal intent” due to the circumstances and said it was “not feasible” for the troopers to issue a warning before firing.

Protestors and Terán’s family see the event differently. They question the claim that Terán fired first. They allege their independent autopsy showed their hands “were raised and they were facing multiple troopers during the time of the shooting.”

Atlanta police released bodycam footage that shows officers clearing out part of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center. As reported, “Suddenly, the officers heard rapid fire gunshots. Authorities say this audio captures the shooting between Georgia State Patrol and protestor Manuel Teran.” The Georgia State Patrol disclosed that its officers do not wear body cameras and existing video footage, it claims, “does not visually show the shooting.” This video was captured by the Atlanta Police Department.

Based on its reconstruction of the evidence, the family’s attorney March said “Both Terán’s left and right hands show exit wounds in both palms. The autopsy further reveals that Manuel was most probably in a seated position, cross-legged when killed.” According to Teran’s lawyers, their private autopsy revealed that Terán’ had been shot 14 separate times.

As reported, The DeKalb County Medcial Examers’s  autopsy, which released to the public the month after, showed now (no?) gunpowder residue on the activist’s hands.” However an analysis by the GBI crime lab disputed that report, saying that its findings “revealed the presence of particles characteristic of gunshot primer residue.”

Data on the gunshot wounds to Terán is conflicting. “The DeKalb autopsy also said that Tortuguita’s body had at least 57 gunshot wounds.” Further reporting disclosed that “During the processing of the scene, officials say they found a Smith and Wesson 9 m.m. handgun and magazines with ammunition that were later determined to have been purchased by Tortuguita from a sporting goods store in Acworth in 2020.”

The report states that after Officer Brown removed Terán’s body from the tent, two silver cartridge casings marked F. C. 9 mm Luger were found inside the tent. A metal magazine for a 9 mm Smith & Wesson pistol was also found inside the tent. Outside the tent a black Smith & Wesson MP pistol was found. Officer Brown unloaded the firearm and removed an 8-round capacity magazine. The magazine contained four 9 mm cartridges

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, a “ballistics report matches the gun found on the protester to bullet fired at trooper.”

In response to the announcement that the troopers will not be charged, Terán’s family called the prosecutor’s decision “a rubber stamp of the GBI’s version of events without any critical analysis.” Terán’s family also criticized “the government’s choice to not release the investigation file, which they say prevents them from independently investigating the activist’s death.”

Belkis Teran, Tortuguita’s mother, said “We have waited eight months for the truth. We are in pain. We want our experts to review the lab tests. This report does not answer our questions. How long must we wait?”

D & B Staff

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Episode 124