‘Cop City’ protester had hands raised when killed, autopsy finds

Family of Manuel Teran sue over activist's death
Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 2:45 PM EDT
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DECATUR, Ga. - An environmental activist who was fatally shot in a confrontation with Georgia law enforcement in January was sitting cross-legged with hands in the air at the time, the protester’s family said as they released results of an independent autopsy.

The family of Manuel Paez Terán held a news conference in Decatur to announce the findings.

Terán was in a seated position, “cross-legged,” with Terán’s hands showing “exit wounds” in both palms at the time of death.

“What did we learn from this autopsy? Manuel was shot in the head through his right eye, in his left upper chest, his legs, through the abdomen and several times through the palms,” the family’s legal team said.

“Manuel was looking death in the face, hands raised, when killed,” said Brian Spears, an attorney for Terán’s family.

“I never thought that Manuel could die in a meditation position,” said Terán’s mother. “My heart is destroyed.”

“My child is a hero,” said Joel Paez, Terán’s father, calling the death an “assassination.”

The environmental activist was shot at least 13 times near the site for the future Atlanta police training facility on Jan.18, according to the independent autopsy results. A Georgia State Patrol trooper was seriously injured during the encounter.

The family members said they are filing an open-records lawsuit seeking to force Atlanta police to release more evidence about the Jan. 18 killing of Terán.

The family’s attorneys said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which has been probing the shooting for nearly two months, has prevented Atlanta police from releasing additional evidence to the family.

The wooded area where Terán was killed has long been dubbed “Cop City” by opponents who occupied the forest there to protest the 85-acre tract being developed as a massive police and firefighter training facility.

In a statement, the bureau said it’s preventing “inappropriate release of evidence” to preserve the investigation’s integrity.

Spears said the family commissioned a second autopsy after the DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s Office conducted an initial one. Officials have not released the DeKalb County report, so it’s unclear whether it reached a similar conclusion.