‘Cop City’ Activist’s Autopsy Reveals At Least 57 Bullet Wounds, No Evidence for Claim that Activist Shot First

Manuel Paez Terán, also known as “Tortuguita,” was shot on 18 January, 2023 while protesting the destruction of the South River Forest for the development of a massive police training facility which has come to be known colloquially as “Cop City.” On the night of 19 April, 2023, DeKalb county released Paez Terán’s official autopsy to the public. This autopsy would appear to contradict the police retelling of the events in which Paez Terán shot first. In fact, Paez Terán may not have fired a gun whatsoever.

The Guardian reports that:

DeKalb county’s autopsy, released to the media through open records requests on Wednesday, offers no support for the notion that Paez Terán fired a weapon, stating that “gunpowder residue is not seen on the hands” or clothes of Paez Terán.

The Guardian is also careful to note that “neither this analysis nor a test known as the GSR kit is foolproof, according to experts,” and that “Dr. Gerald T. Gowitt, whose signature is on the county autopsy report told [the attorneys representing the Paez Terán family] that the absence of gunpowder residue was generally “not conclusive of whether or not somebody shot a firearm.”

In other reporting, NBC News includes the remarks of Mountain Judicial Circuit DA George Christian:

Christian said Thursday it would be “premature” to discuss any findings of investigators and didn’t give a timeline for any decision to seek charges against officers who opened fire.

While certainty cannot be obtained, skepticism of the official narrative seems warranted.

The Intercept adds additional context:

In body camera footage that was later released — after police said none would be — one officer said that the cop had been shot by his fellow police. (Authorities dismissed the footage as speculation and said evidence did not support the remarks.) A previous, independent autopsy ordered by Tortuguita’s family found that the activist’s hands were raised when they were shot.

The claim that Paez Terán’s hands were raised is also corroborated in the article put out by NBC News, stating that “[r]elatives and friends have insisted that Tortuguita had their hands raised and was no threat to police.”

Additional Revelations

The autopsy also revealed that Paez Terán was shot at least 57 times. The NBC News article also notes that:

The wounds suffered by Manuel Paez Terán, 26, were so extensive that a loose round “fell from the left sleeve of one of the shirts” as coroners were undressing the body for examination, the DeKalb County medical examiner said.

The Guardian’s article quotes Wingo Smith, one of the attorneys representing the Paez Terán family: “It’s just gruesome, the effect of the shots on their body, the actual devastation.” The article also points out that Paez Terán was not killed immediately.

Brutality and Distrust

The murky circumstances surrounding this police shooting cast severe doubt on the official narrative told by the police. The image of the aftermath of the shooting which the autopsy painted is truly harrowing, highlighting concerns of merciless violence against protesters and the right to protest. The referenced article from The Intercept contains an apt summary of the doubts which many people hold surrounding these events:

The abundance of evidence, including the government autopsy, doesn’t look like a group of police taking self-defensive action against a protester.

What it looks like is that the forest defender was executed by firing squad.

Events: Stop Cop City 

Locations: Georgia 

Organizations: Georgia State Patrol Atlanta Police Department 

People: Manuel Paez Terán 

Tags: Police Protest Environmentalism 

Type: News