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Independent autopsy for activist killed in Cop City shows 14 gunshots

The family of Manuel Paez Teran is pushing for answers and details of the moments leading up to the activist's death.
Posted at 9:17 PM, Mar 13, 2023

Attorneys for the family of activist Manuel Paez Terán released a five-page independent autopsy report, which said Terán was shot 14 times while sitting down with their hands in the air.

"I never thought that Manuel could die in a meditation position," said Belkis Terán, the activist's mother. "My heart is destroyed."

The 26-year-old activist was shot and killed by police Jan. 18, when officers cleared camped out protesters from the forest where the new Atlanta Public Safety Training Center would be built. Protesters had been camping there for months, with environmental activists saying the new center will hurt green space in the city.  

Police say Terán fired on an officer first.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation says Terán had a handgun, and the projectile recovered from the trooper’s wound matches Terán’s gun.

Now, attorneys for Terán’s family say they want answers about the moments leading up to the activist’s death.

"Manuel was looking death in the face, hands raised, when killed," attorney Brian Spears said.

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Attorneys say the autopsy Monday revealed Terán was shot more than a dozen times — including in the arms, eye and head — and that they were not fighting police.

"According to the autopsy, the wounds indicate that Manuel's left arm and hand were raised when Manuel was shot with the palm facing the front of the body," Spears said. "Manuel's right forearm and right hand were also shot."

Attorneys say because of the new report showing their injuries, their family and the public deserve more information.

"The only people who know what happened in the forest that day are the officers who were present and the GBI who is investigating," attorney Jeff Filipovits said. "The GBI has repeatedly declined to meet with us, to talk to us or to present any evidence to us."

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation did respond via Twitter after the family spoke today, saying in part: "We are aware of media reports published today that made allegations concerning the officer involved shooting that occurred on Jan. 18. The actions of the GBI to prevent inappropriate release of evidence are solely intended to preserve the integrity of the investigation and to ensure the facts of the incident are not tainted. The GBI investigation still supports our initial assessment."

The GBI says the Dekalb County medical examiner’s office conducted the original autopsy, but officials have not released the results of that autopsy.

Attorneys for the family say it’s already taken too long, and they're filing a lawsuit against Atlanta for withholding information on the investigation into Terán’s death.

"I understand the need for integrity in an investigation, but once you release what the official narrative is, the investigation is tainted already," Filipovits said.