The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained the report from the DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s Office Tuesday. Last week, that office released an autopsy that said gunpowder residue was “not seen” on Teran’s hands. But that is not conclusive because gunpowder is not always visible to the naked eye. The autopsy also said Teran’s body had at least 57 gunshot wounds.
Teran’s family has disputed the GBI’s claim that Teran fired the first shot at troopers and has questioned the use of deadly force.
Weeks before Teran was killed, the state patrol’s SWAT team had been requested to assist the GBI and other law enforcement agencies in clearing the property of protesters who were “unlawfully occupying the land,” according to multiple Georgia Department of Public Safety use of force reports obtained by the AJC.
On the morning of Jan. 18, troopers began clearing the forest when they encountered dozens of tents, one of which belonged to Teran, the reports say. Teran was inside and briefly spoke to officers but refused to leave. Troopers fired pepper balls inside the enclosure in an attempt to drive Teran out and make an arrest for criminal trespassing. The reports say Teran fired the first shot, wounding a trooper, and that six officers then returned fire.
The GBI has said that the bullet that struck the trooper had been fired from a gun found at the scene and provided documents showing it had been purchased by Teran in September 2020. Teran’s family disputes that and questions the veracity of the use of force reports submitted by troopers.
Jay Jarvis, who worked as a forensic scientist for the Georgia State Crime Laboratory for more than 30 years, said the GBI reports confirm for him that Teran fired at the troopers. Being inside the tent, Jarvis added, would have kept gunshot residue from getting on Teran’s hands from the patrolmen firing.
“I would be 100% convinced that he is the one who fired the shot,” said Jarvis, who owns Armuchee-based Arma Forensics and who has testified as an expert witness in hundreds of court cases involving firearms. “The physical evidence is very conclusive in that regard.”
Chris Robinson, who directed the Atlanta Police Department’s Crime Lab and who worked as a firearms examiner for the GBI, pointed to how the GBI report says more than five particles characteristic of gunshot primer residue were found on samples taken from Teran’s hands.
“More than five only leaves you one thing: He fired the gun just moments before he died,” said Robinson, who owns Sharpsburg-based Chris Robinson Forensics and who has testified as an expert witness in court cases involving firearms for 25 years. “He fired that shot. He hit the state trooper.”
The attorneys representing Teran’s family released a statement Tuesday, calling the GBI test results “inconclusive” and pointing out that the bureau’s report says it is possible for gunshot victims to have such residue on their hands.
“Manuel Paez Teran received gunshot wounds to both hands,” the attorneys’ statement says. “The report does not address this fact. It merely claims that the evidence ‘supports the possibility that the individual discharged a firearm.’”
Teran’s family also called on the GBI to release its “full investigative file, including witness statements and complete forensic tests.”
“Now that these new reports of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation have been released, there is no longer any legitimate reason for further delay in the release of the entire GBI investigative file,” the family’s attorney said.
Asked about the gunshot residue test results Monday, a GBI spokeswoman said in an email: “We’ve given the case to the special prosecutor, so we’re not making any further comments or releasing additional information until after it completes the judicial process.”
- AJC staff writers Rosana Hughes and Caroline Silva contributed to this report.