In January, heavily militarized Georgia State Patrol officers shot and killed Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán, a nonviolent activist protesting in the local forest that Cop City would destroy, in a hail of 57 bullets. In the immediate aftermath of their killing, law enforcement claimed that Tortuguita possessed a firearm and fired first. This was a lie. Body camera footage suggests one officer shot another, and autopsies showed Tortuguita had their arms raised and no gunpowder residue on their hands when they were killed.
The column cites articles that preceded findings from the police lab and other sources. Some, like the suggestion of friendly fire, came later from speculation of officers who were not involved in the shooting.
As critics have noted, the members are citing a family-funded autopsy for the claim that Terán had his hands up. The actual autopsy is less clear and the man who performed the autopsy has been previously attacked for misrepresenting his record and bias in past cases where he was hired by families.
However, the official autopsy found that there was no way to conclusively establish Terán’s position.
It is also not true that residue was not found. The article refers to no gun residue being seen on the hands at the scene. However, a test was used and the report “revealed the presence of particles characteristic of gunshot primer residue.”
More importantly, the gun was found to match the bullet recovered from the trooper’s body: “Investigators say a forensic ballistic analysis confirms the remains of the bullet pulled from the trooper’s body during surgery on Wednesday afternoon was fired from the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm recovered at the scene.”
Moreover, the gun was previously purchased by Terán: “Investigators say they received confirmation Monday that the firearm used in the Jan. 18 incident was bought legally in September 2020 by Manuel Esteban Paez Teran.”
So, the actual findings showed that Terán bought the gun, the gun was used to shoot the officer, and Terán had gun residue on his hands.
The two members use these distorted facts to “call on the Department of Justice to investigate Tortuguita’s killing, its subsequent cover-up, and the deprivation of civil rights.”
I have previously expressed my own concerns over the use of domestic terrorism charges against these and other protesters. However, the Nation’s readers were given a clearly false understanding of the findings in the case to suggest the murder of a protester and the covering up of the crime by Atlanta police.