Manuel Terán

A second, independent autopsy of Cop City activist Manuel Terán, who was shot and killed by state law enforcement on Jan. 18 during a clearing of protesters, shows their hands were raised when they were killed, according to lawyers for the family.

Findings from the autopsy report were revealed at a press conference in Decatur on Monday morning by attorneys representing Terán’s family.

Terán was one of the activists camped on the site of the future Atlanta public safety training facility – nicknamed Cop City by opponents – off Key Road in South DeKalb County.

The independent autopsy was conducted by forensic pathologist Kris Sperry on Jan. 31 at the Connor-Westbury Funeral home in Griffin, Ga.

The report concludes that Terán was shot 14 times while probably seated in a cross-legged position. The report says that one bullet struck Terán in the head, while others entered their torso, shoulder, legs, and hands.

The wounds to Terán’s hands indicated they were holding them up in a possible protective gesture, but there was no evidence of gunshot residue on Terán’s hands.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) said Terán was shot after they fired on a Georgia State Patrol officer, who was wounded in the incident. The GBI said in a March 10 statement it is not releasing information now “to “preserve the integrity of the investigation and to ensure the facts of the incident are not tainted.”

Sperry’s independent autopsy report states, “It is impossible to tell if [Terán] had been holding a firearm, or not holding a firearm, either before [they were] shot or while [they were] being shot multiple times.”

Activists believe that friendly fire from other officers caused the state trooper’s injuries, and point to radio chatter heard in the Atlanta Police Department released body camera footage of an officer stating “you f-cked your own guy up.”

Terán’s family has filed suit for the release of more information under the Georgia Open Records Act, according to attorneys Brian Spears and Jeff Filipovits. The attorney said the GBI hasn’t released the government’s autopsy report, met with Terán’s family, and has blocked the City of Atlanta from releasing more officer-worn body camera footage.

Flilipovits said the actions of state law enforcement at the Cop City site should be “ringing alarm bells” for everyone concerned about the militarization of police.

He said that more than 20 activists arrested March 5 remain in the DeKalb County Jail charged with domestic terrorism, but no details about their alleged crimes have been released.

Belkis Tera, mother of slain activist Manuel Teran, speaks at a press conference in Decatur on March 13. A photo of Manuel can be seen behind her.

Activists claim APD and other law enforcement randomly arrested people at the South River Forest site who were peacefully gathered rather than seeking out those who had changed into black clothing, set fire to construction equipment, and lobbed Molotov cocktails and firecrackers to keep the police at bay.

“Imagine the police killed your child. And now then imagine they won’t tell you anything. That is what we are going through,” Manuel Terán’s mother Belkis Terán said. “I am heartbroken.”

The GBI said in its statement that an autopsy on Terán was conducted by the DeKalb Medical Examiner’s Office and it “still supports our initial assessment.”

“The GBI cannot & will not attempt to sway public opinion in this case but will continue to be led by the facts & truth,” the statement said. “We understand the extreme emotion that this has caused Teran’s family and will continue to investigate as comprehensively as possible.”

Faith leaders gathered on the steps of City Hall after the March 5 arrests calling for the City of Atlanta to abandon its plans for the training facility.

This is a developing story. Check for back for updates.

Collin KelleyEditor

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.