Family of environmental activist sues city of Atlanta for public records; releases full autopsy
Attorneys for the family of Manuel Paez Terán, who was shot and killed by police Jan. 18 while protesting Atlanta's proposed Public Safety Training Center, released the full results of a private autopsy Monday.
The announcement came during a press conference this morning outside the Dekalb County Courthouse. Results from the first autopsy done by the Dekalb County Medical Examiner are pending, but the private autopsy shows Terán was shot 14 times by law enforcement.
The autopsy was conducted by Former GBI Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Kris L. Sperry. His examination also reveals Terán’s hands were up and they were likely sitting cross legged. The report doesn’t mention findings of any gunpowder on the body which would come from close range firing, but it said:
“…if the decedent was within a tent or other similar shelter when he was shot, the intervening material would have prevented any soot and stippling particles from reaching his body surfaces.”
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is leading the multi-agency investigation into Terán's death. The GBI reported on Jan. 25 that it received confirmation from a firearms transaction record that said in September 2020, Terán legally purchased the firearm that was used in the shooting of a Georgia State Patrol officer during the incident on Jan. 18. They claim Terán also fired the gun but said in a statement they have yet to release information in order to “preserve the integrity of the investigation.”
Family attorney Brian Spears said at the press conference they are asking for that evidence.
“We do not stand here today telling you that we know what happened,” he said. “This second autopsy is a snapshot of what happened, but it is not the whole story. What we want is simple: GBI, meet with the family and release the investigative report.”
The family attorneys filed a lawsuit March 10 asking courts to force law enforcement to comply with the Open Records Act and release the information. The complaint includes a letter sent to Atlanta Chief of Police Darin Schierbaum from the GBI's Legal Division on Feb. 13 requesting APD withhold the records.
The GBI has said its investigation could take between 60 and 90 days. In Monday's press conference, family attorney Jeff Filipovits said, "But once you release what the official narrative is, the investigation is tainted already."
“The larger context of this unprecedented crackdown is the domestic terrorism charges and the use of the state's force to quell dissent,” he said.
Last week, 23 protesters were arrested at a music festival in the South River Forest near the site of the future Public Safety Training Center, charged with domestic terrorism, and denied bond. Filipovits said no evidence has been shared to justify their charges.
“None of the people in the jail right now have an allegation that they threw a Molotov cocktail, that they lit construction equipment on fire, that they shot off fireworks,” Filipovits said. “None of the allegations we heard were specific to any person.”
The City of Atlanta has 30 days to respond to the lawsuit from the date it was filed.