Family of environmental protester killed by police wants answers
The family of a protester who was shot and killed on the property of a planned police training center is speaking publicly for the first time since the environmental activist died Jan. 18. GPB’s Amanda Andrews reports.
The family of Manuel Paez Terán is speaking out publicly for the first time since the environmental activist was killed by police Jan.18 on the site of the proposed Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, a complex for police and firefighter training.
Law enforcement reported that Terán shot and wounded a Georgia state trooper near the site.
During a 10 a.m. press conference outside the Dekalb County Courthouse, the family was joined by their attorneys who are calling on the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to be more transparent.
Family members are looking for answers after a private autopsy showed Terán, who went by the name Tortuguita, was shot at least 13 times by multiple officers.
The Terán family, including Manuel’s father, brother and mother spoke at the press conference. Belkis Terán, Manuel's mother, said at the conference the killing did not make sense to her.
“We are horrified by all that has happened to Manuel,” she said. “I never thought that taking care of a park would be a dangerous thing.”
Attorneys are pressing the GBI to turn over any video or audio recordings of the forest operation to the family.
In a statement, the GBI said it was still processing evidence:
“...Agents are actually investigating the actions of all individuals connected to this incident, including [Terán] and law enforcement. …Any video recovered relating to the case, to include audio, will be analyzed as part of the investigative process. We are not releasing any videos currently because agents are continuing to conduct key interviews and want to maintain the integrity of the investigation.”
The GBI statement also added that investigations into officer-involved shootings take 60 to 90 days to complete on average.
During the Jan.18 confrontation, seven protesters were arrested and charged with domestic terrorism. Jeff Filipovits, an attorney for the Terán family, said the terrorism charges that peaceful protesters are facing should be concerning for everyone.
“Is anyone who is at a protest liable for everything that happens at a protest now? Are these all domestic terrorists?” Flipovits asked during the press conference. “Is this a law that anyone wants? Is this a rule anyone wants? No matter what side of any political issue you are on, this is untenable.”
At the press conference, local organizer Kamau Franklin, founder of Community Movement Builders, questioned the effectiveness of police training in light of the Jan. 18 incident.
“My assumption is these cops in the woods had thousands of hours of training.”
During the press conference, the GBI, along with other law enforcement partners, conducted an operation to identify people who are illegally trespassing and/or engaging in criminal activity on the property. The multi-agency land clearing operation began in the forest ahead of construction.
Franklin said he was aware of the operation but not surprised and that people are going to protest.
Law enforcement reported no arrests were made today at the site, in what the GBI called an "ongoing effort to ensure that the site of the future City of Atlanta Public Safety Training Center is safe and secure."