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Autopsy: ‘Cop City’ Rioter Accused Of Shooting State Trooper Was Shot At Least 57 Times By Police

Atlanta, GA – New autopsy results revealed the armed suspect accused of shooting a Georgia state trooper during a police sweep of the future site of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center in January was shot at least 57 times when officers returned fire.

Dozens of rioters have been arrested in the area over the past year, with many being charged with domestic terrorism for attacking police with Molotov cocktails, rocks, and fireworks, The Post Millennial reported.

They’ve dubbed the site “Cop City” and established semi-permanent encampments throughout the area during that time.

The group has also set construction equipment ablaze on multiple occasions.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) said law enforcement officers were clearing the encampment at the future training site on Jan. 18 as part of an “operation to identify people who are trespassing and committing other crimes on the property,” when they encountered a man inside one of the tents, FOX News reported.

“Officers gave verbal commands to the man who did not comply and shot a Georgia State Patrol Trooper,” according to the GBI. “Other law enforcement officers returned fire, hitting the man.”

The suspect was pronounced dead at the scene.

He was later identified as 26-year-old Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, who went by the name of “Tortuguita,” WAGA reported.

The GBI said investigators recovered a Smith & Wesson Shield 9mm handgun at the scene and noted the bullet removed from the wounded trooper’s body matched Teran’s weapon, CBS News reported.

Police said the gun was legally purchased by Teran back in 2020.

The fatal officer-involved shooting was not captured by bodycams.

The recently-released autopsy, which was conducted by Dekalb County Medical Examiner, revealed Teran was shot at least 57 times during the incident, CBS News reported.

He had gunshot wounds across his entire body, including his legs, head, hands, and torso.

Although an independent autopsy commissioned by Teran’s family claimed the gunman was sitting cross-legged and had his hands raised when he was shot, the medical examiner said there were “too many variables with respect to movement of the decedent and the shooters” to determine Teran’s “body position” at the time of the shooting, CBS News reported.

“Since most shootings involving multiple gunshots are dynamic events attempts to place the decedent in any particular position at a specific point in time is fraught with potential inaccuracies,” the report read.

The autopsy further revealed there was no gunpowder residue found on Teran’s hands, nor was there any “soot, stippling, searing” or residue near any of his gunshot wounds, CBS News reported.

Dr. Gerald Gowitt, who signed off on the autopsy report, told the attorneys representing Teran’s family that the absence of gunpowder residue on an individual’s hands is “not conclusive of whether or not somebody shot a firearm,” according to The Guardian.

Rioters called for violence against police in the wake of the shooting, with several groups rallying followers on social media.

Dozens of rioters have been arrested in the area over the past year for vandalism and attacking law enforcement officers, The Post Millennial reported.

The mob “destroyed multiple pieces of construction equipment” by either vandalizing them or setting them ablaze back in March.

They also attacked police during that uprising, which resulted in at least 35 arrests.

Eight rioters were arrested at the property in May of 2022 after throwing a Molotov cocktail at officers while they were trying to remove them, CNN reported.

Vandals destroyed surveillance cameras in the area a couple months later, then someone fired shots on the technician who showed up to repair them, according to WAGA.

In August of 2022, law enforcement officers were seen standing guard while Georgia Power repaired a damaged transformer at the property.

Police and construction crews had gotten into a confrontation with rioters there earlier in the week, according to WAGA.

Construction equipment at the site went up in flames the following month.

When the task force went to the property on Dec. 13, 2022, to take down some of the barricades the group had set up to block entrances to the site, rioters confronted them and allegedly “threw rocks at police cars and attacked EMTs outside the neighboring fire stations with rocks and bottles,” according to the GBI.

“Task force members used various tactics to arrest individuals who were occupying makeshift treehouses,” the agency said, according to CNN.

The GBI said the task force located “explosive devices, gasoline, and road flairs” while clearing the area, WXIA reported.

The rioters, who have touted themselves as forest defenders, established the encampment to protest the future training facility they refer to as “Cop City,” WXIA reported.

They have had the semi-permanent encampments at the site for approximately one year.

Police ultimately arrested five rioters during the December confrontation, all of whom are now facing domestic terrorism and other charges.

The GBI said there had been multiple recent clashes between the group and police or other public service personnel at the site prior to the arrests made in December.

“[The Atlanta Police Department] and other agencies had made several arrests over the past few months for the ongoing criminal activity at the site location,” the GBI said, according to WXIA. “Some of the criminal activities include carjacking, various crimes against persons, destruction of property, arson, and attacks against public safety officials. Law enforcement continues to address the criminal acts committed by the individuals that continue to occupy the area of the proposed training site.”

The Atlanta Police Foundation (APF) said it plans to build the $90 million, state-of-the-art complex on 85 acres of the site, and that the remaining 180 acres will remain undeveloped, WXIA reported.

The facility will include a burn building, a mock city, and a shooting range, according to CNN.

The demonstrators argued that the project would destroy one of the largest forested areas of the city, and that the land is historically significant to the Muscogee Creek Native Americans who once lived in the area.

The site was also the location of the Old Prison Farm, where unpaid inmates worked the farmland as a “dignified” means of imprisonment, WXIA reported.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin


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