Atlanta City Council member calls for DOJ investigation into police shooting of protester

230313-Decatur-Manuel ÒTortuguitaÓ TeranÕs brother Daniel Paez, from left, mother Belkis Teran and brother Pedro Santema hug after Belkis Teran spoke during a press conference Monday, March 13, 2023, in Decatur to speak about the results of an autopsy they commissioned. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

230313-Decatur-Manuel ÒTortuguitaÓ TeranÕs brother Daniel Paez, from left, mother Belkis Teran and brother Pedro Santema hug after Belkis Teran spoke during a press conference Monday, March 13, 2023, in Decatur to speak about the results of an autopsy they commissioned. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Atlanta City Council members raised concerns over the recently released DeKalb County coroner’s autopsy report that showed the environmental activist fatally shot by police at the site of the public safety training center suffered more than 50 wounds.

Manuel “Tortugita” Teran was shot and killed by Georgia State Patrol troopers on Jan. 18 during a “clearing operation” on the wooded property in southern DeKalb. Teran’s family long disputed the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s claim that Teran fired the first shot, and questioned the use of deadly force.

Georgia State Patrol officers weren’t wearing body cameras during the operation, casting even more doubt on the official reports.

The new autopsy report released late Wednesday showed Teran’s body had at least 57 gunshot wounds and gun residue was ‘not seen’ on the activists hands.

The GBI has said Teran shot first at officers, and wounded one in the stomach, before troopers returned fire and killed him. The agency has also said the bullet taken from the trooper’s body matches a gun found inside a tent in which Teran was sitting, and that Teran legally purchased the weapon.

A test for gunshot residue has been conducted but results have not yet been returned to the GBI, according to agency officials.

Atlanta City Council members reacted with calls for greater transparency into what happened and a request that the United States Department of Justice open an independent investigation into the shooting.

Council member Liliana Bakhtiari called for the federal investigation on Thursday and said that the autopsy “raised even more questions about the official accounts” of Teran’s death.

“The timelines reported by law enforcement had already proven to be contradictory and with this new information from DeKalb’s autopsy report showing no gunshot residue on Tort’s hands, but at least 57 individual gunshot wounds, they have proven that their word cannot be trusted,” she said.

Another council member said that the “piecemeal drip of information” and conflicting narratives over the shooting have increased criticism of the controversial $90-million training center project.

Council member Jason Dozier said that after public criticism over choices like hefty domestic terrorism charges filed against protesters and closed-door meetings of a mayor’s training center advisory group, “we’re left with a mess that gets worse by the day.”

“At the end of the day, this was a multi-jurisdictional operation and at this point, we should have a more complete understanding than what’s been shared publicly,” he said on Twitter. “It’s been months. We need transparency. More importantly, we need answers.”