The family of Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran — the activist killed in January near the site of Atlanta’s planned public safety training center says an independent autopsy concluded he was shot by police at least 13 times.
Decatur-based civil rights attorneys Brian Spears and Jeff Filipovits plan will have a press conference Monday morning. They and the victim’s family are calling on the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to hand over more information on Teran’s death, which they called “the first time any environmental activist in the United States has been killed by the government.”
“Manny was a kind person who helped anyone who needed it. He was a pacifist,” Teran’s mother, Belkis Teran, said in a press release. “They say he shot a police officer. I do not believe it. I do not understand why they will not even privately explain to us what happened to our child.”
The GBI has investigated the incident surrounding the Georgia state troopers’ conduction of a Jan. 18 “clearing operation” near the training center site. Authorities came across Teran and other activists camped in the woods and accused Teran of shooting “without warning” and wounding a trooper.
State troopers then returned fire, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The GBI says it has tied the bullet that struck the injured trooper to a gun found at the scene. They also provided documents that show Teran, 26, purchased the same weapon in Sept. 2020. However, there is no body camera footage of the fatal shooting.
Many activists, civil rights groups, and local officials rallied to demand an independent investigation of the tragedy.
Teran’s family also asks that the GBI release “whatever audio and video exists of the incident or any other information that would help shed light on what happened.”
“Any evidence, even if it is only an audio recording, will help the family piece together what happened on the morning of January 18th,” Spears, a longtime civil rights attorney, said. “This information is critical, and it is being withheld.”