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Autopsy reveals protester killed protesting ‘Cop City’ had hands raised in the air when shot

Law enforcement claims Manuel Paez Terán, known as ‘Tortuguita,’ shot and wounded a state trooper when police were trying to clear protesters from the forest area where a new police training facility is being built

SHARE Autopsy reveals protester killed protesting ‘Cop City’ had hands raised in the air when shot
Demonstrators gather outside of Atlanta’s City Hall.

Demonstrators gather outside of Atlanta’s City Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, as local officials announce they are moving forward with plans to build the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center. The protesters have called for officials to abandon plans for the project which they derisively call Cop City.

R.J. Rico, Associated Press

An autopsy revealed the environmental activist who was shot and killed by Atlanta police was sitting cross-legged with hands up in the air when police fired shots.

Manuel Paez Terán, who went by the name Tortuguita, was killed during a protest against building a law enforcement training facility in the South River Forest outside Atlanta, Georgia, which detractors of the complex call “Cop City.” The family of Paez Terán ordered the autopsy, looking for answers in the activist’s death.

What led to the shooting of Manuel Paez Terán?

Initial police reports said that the officers fired at Paez Terán “after the activist shot and seriously wounded a state trooper” when law enforcement was attempting to get protesters out of area, CNN reported.

There was no body camera or dashcam footage of the incident, but CBS News reported “that ballistics evidence shows the injured trooper was shot with a bullet from a gun Paez Terán legally purchased in 2020.”

The family of Paez Terán hired attorneys to file “an open-records lawsuit seeking to force Atlanta police to release more evidence about the Jan. 18 killing,” The Associated Press reported.

According to the family’s attorneys, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has been looking into the shooting and “has prevented Atlanta police from releasing additional evidence to the family,” per AP.

“Manuel was looking death in the face, hands raised when killed,” civil rights attorney Brian Spears said, regarding the autopsy findings, per AP. “We do not stand here today telling you that we know what happened. The second autopsy is a snapshot of what happened, but it is not the whole story. What we want is simple: GBI, meet with the family and release the investigative report.”

What is Atlanta’s ‘Cop City’?

The plans for the facility include a police and fire training center that would cover 85 acres of urban woods and would cost $90 million to build. Atlanta City Council approved the project, and the land has been leased to the Atlanta Police Foundation. If it does get built, it would be one of the largest training centers for law enforcement in the country, according to The New York Times.

Environmental protesters have expressed concerns about clearing trees and building and commercializing the South River Forest, which is one of the largest urban forests in the U.S.

“It is a really special place. It provides a habitat to some rare fish species and rare plant species, and it’s one of the largest intact forests we have in the region,” Will Harlan, the southeast director for the Center for Biological Diversity, told the Times.

Other concerns regard how policing works in the U.S. Some critics are worried “it will militarize police forces and contribute to further instances of police brutality,” per CNN.