GPB's Amanda Andrews reports

Joel Paez, father of Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, speaks during a press conference, Monday, March 13, 2023, in Decatur, Ga. A press conference was held to give additional autopsy findings in Terán's death. (AP Photo/Alex Slitz)

Joel Paez, father of Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, speaks during a press conference, Monday, March 13, 2023, in Decatur, Ga. A press conference was held to give additional autopsy findings in Terán's death.

Credit: AP Photo/Alex Slitz

On Wednesday, the DeKalb County Medical Examiner released the official autopsy report for Manuel Paez Terán, the activist killed during a law enforcement raid on Jan. 18 in the South Atlanta forest. Attorneys for the family said they’re still looking for answers.

The DeKalb autopsy report said Terán suffered at least 57 gunshot wounds. Results from the independent autopsy commissioned by the family only record 14.

Wingo Smith is an attorney for Teran’s family. 

“The new information really drives home the damage and the brutality of Manuel's death. And that's hard to take for anyone. And, as you may know, it would have been Manuel's 27th birthday this weekend.”

The DeKalb report notably did not find any gunshot residue on Terán’s hands or clothing.

Scott Sweetow is the president of S3 global consulting, LLC, and an expert in explosive forensics, firearms and counterterrorism. He retired from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Sweetow said there are a number of reasons that gunshot residue might not show up, even if a weapon has been fired, including the condition of the gun, the ammo, and how evidence is preserved.

“Were the suspect’s hands bagged on scene to preserve any [gunshot residue] evidence,?” Sweetow wrote in an email. “Was a field test done right there on scene or later in the medical examiner’s office? Was the body at the scene for a long time before it was taken to the medical examiner, and were steps taken to preserve it there for [gunshot residue]? All could play a role.”

Former Georgia Chief Medical Examiner Kris Sperry conducted the independent autopsy and reported that Terán was likely seated with their hands raised at the time they were killed. However, the DeKalb County autopsy drew a different conclusion.

DeKalb County Chief Medical Examiner Gerald T. Gowitt wrote, “There are too many variables with respect to movement of the decedent and the shooters to draw definitive conclusions concerning [Terán’s] body position.”

Meanwhile, the family continues to question the GBI’s investigation into Manuel Teran’s death due to the agency’s role in planning the raid in which they were killed.

“Manuel was camping on publicly owned land that was not even on the future site of 'Cop City.' Law enforcement went in with weapons and shot pepper balls,” Manuel’s father Joel Paez said in a statement. “They created a violent situation and were ready to kill anyone who resisted. Now, they will not even meet with us to explain what happened.”

Recently Atlanta City Councilmember Liliana Bakhtiari joined in calls for the United States Department of Justice to open an independent investigation into the raid in the South River Forest.

Attorney Wingo Smith said authorities "labeled Manuel and everyone else a terrorist ... to justify this extreme use of force."

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation reported on Jan. 25 that it received confirmation from a firearms transaction record that said in Sept. 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.

On Jan. 20, GBI released a photo of the handgun that was in Terán’s possession when the trooper was shot at the site of the future Atlanta Public Safety Training Center. The handgun was described as a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm. The GBI said forensic ballistic analysis confirmed that the projectile recovered from the trooper’s wound matched Terán’s handgun.

On April 14, 2023 the GBI finished their investigation and gave the case file to Special Prosecutor George Christian with the Mountain Circuit District Attorney’s office.

Attorney Smith said the family still hasn’t received any information from the GBI. The family’s attorneys are asking the GBI to release its investigative report, including forensic test findings, all audio and video recordings of the incident, and of the interviews with the officers involved in the shooting.

Tags: Georgia  Atlanta  Cop City  Police  GBI