The family of activist Manuel Teran, who was shot and killed at the site of the controversial Atlanta police and fire training facility site, has called for a transparent investigation into the death of their son.
The family held a press conference on Monday morning in Decatur at the same time construction crews – accompanied by a large law enforcement presence – began moving equipment onto the Key Road property in unincorporated south DeKalb County.
The family said an independent autopsy showed Teran, who used they/them pronouns, was shot 13 times during a confrontation with law enforcement on Jan. 18 during an operation to remove protesters camping on the South River Forest site – called “Cop City” by opponents.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI, Teran, 26, had legally purchased a handgun and fired on officers during the clearing operation. The report said Teran wounded a Georgia State Patrol officer before other officers returned fire.
Other protesters at the site and those who knew Teran, known as Tortuguita, have refuted the GBI’s narrative of events on the site. There was no body camera footage of the incident.
Teran’s mother, Belkis Teran, said during Monday’s press conference that the family was “horrified by what happened to Manuel” and are working with a team of lawyers to get to the truth.
“It does not make sense to me, killing a person sleeping in the forest,” she said. “As a family we are amazed and grateful for the love, support, and solidarity that we have received.”
She said all Manuel wanted to do was protect the forest.
“They had no malice or any intention of committing illegal acts,” she said. “They were a pacifist.”
Manuel’s father, Joel Paez, said ‘we are heartbroken,” but also offered prayers for the officer who was shot and the other protesters who were arrested and charged with domestic terrorism.
Paez said he and Manuel didn’t always see eye-to-eye and said his son should get a job, settle down, and have a family. However, he said he was proud of Manuel’s activism and that their death had reached the whole world.
“Manuel did so much in their short life guided by determination,” Paez said. “If you care about their legacy, plant a tree in Manuel’s memory.”
After Teran’s death, protests were held across the country including one in Downtown Atlanta that turned violent, with property damage and the burning of an Atlanta Police Department patrol car.
DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston announced on Jan. 25 that her office is voluntarily recusing itself from reviewing the investigation. She has requested the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council of Georgia appoint an independent prosecutor to review the investigation.
The City of Atlanta] announced Jan. 31 that it reached a new agreement with DeKalb County to provide environmental protections for the site and for the training center to be a catalyst for local jobs.