DeKalb DA won’t weigh results of GBI probe into training center shooting

The DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office will not be involved in any future charging decisions related to last week’s fatal encounter near the planned site of Atlanta’s new public safety training center.

Authorities allege that, during the Jan. 18 incident, 26-year-old activist Manuel Teran shot at Georgia state troopers as they entered the forested site to conduct a clearing operation. One trooper was wounded; others shot at Teran and killed him.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is probing the incident, as it does with most officer-involved shootings in the state. Because the shooting took place DeKalb County, the GBI would generally send the investigative findings to the DeKalb district attorney to determine if it was justified and whether or not anyone — e.g. any troopers found to have acted inappropriately — should face criminal charges.

ExploreArrests point to broad pull of Atlanta training center protests
ExploreGBI: Gun tied to trooper shooting purchased by protester who was killed

But DeKalb DA Sherry Boston said Wednesday she has recused herself from that process. She’s asked the Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia (PAC) to appoint someone else to handle the evaluation.

Boston, a Democrat, said its the first time she’s made such a decision since she took office in 2017.

The PAC, meanwhile, has filled such as role before. Most notably, special prosecutors declined to pursue charges against the Atlanta officers involved in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks.

“I hope that what this will instill with protesters on the ground is that this will get a full, fair, impartial and independent look, which I think is important for our community and for everyone that is mourning Manuel,” she said during a press conference.

Activists and other groups have questioned the official narrative of the shooting and called for an independent investigation.

Boston’s decision, to be clear, does not create such an investigation. The GBI confirmed later Wednesday that it would carry on with its investigation.

“In the past decade, the GBI has investigated numerous OIS cases for local and state law enforcement,” a press release said. “Our track record of impartiality precedes this January 18 incident. The GBI and Georgia State Patrol are two separate agencies.”

But the DeKalb DA’s recusal does remove one potential conflict of interest from the situation. That’s because her office is part of the multijurisdictional task force that has attempted to thwart activists’ sometimes violent activities at the training center site and elsewhere.

Boston’s office is prosecuting the case of several arrested protesters, including many of those facing weighty domestic terrorism charges.

Activists sympathetic to the “stop cop city” movement have anonymously claimed responsibility for things like vandalism, throwing Molotov cocktails at police, destroying machinery and other vehicles, and directly clashing with law enforcement at the training center site.

But while most of the 18 people thus far accused of domestic terrorism have been accused of wrongdoing — from throwing rocks at first responders to refusing to leave a treehouse — the most serious charges have been predicated more on their alleged affiliation with the larger movement than specific acts.

Asked Wednesday if she thought her original use of domestic terrorism charges in December escalated the situation at the training center site, Boston said she couldn’t “speak to the motivations” of other people.

“All I can say is we will continue to follow the law and the evidence and the facts as we see them, and make appropriate charges,” Boston said.

The GBI’s investigation is ongoing. The expected timeframe for completion is unclear.