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Police Preparing For ‘Night Of Rage’ In Atlanta As Seven Rioters Charged With Domestic Terrorism

Atlanta, GA – Seven alleged rioters involved with an encampment at the site of a future police and fire training center were charged with domestic terrorism on Thursday after a Georgia trooper was wounded and a rioter was fatally shot on Wednesday morning.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) announced the arrests in a press release on Jan. 19.

The seven rioters have been identified as 35-year-old Sarahdo Wasilewski, 31-year-old Teresa Shen, 31-year-old Christopher Reynolds, 25-year-old Timothy Murphy, 30-year-old Matthew Ernest Macar, 29-year-old Spencer Bernard Liberto, and 20-year-old Geoffrey Parsons.

None of the five suspects reside in Georgia.

Liberto, Macar, and Wasilewski are from Pennsylvania, Parsons is from Maryland, Murphy is from Maine, Shen is from New York, and Reynolds is from Ohio, according to the GBI.

They have all been charged with domestic terrorism and criminal trespass.

The GBI said additional charges are expected.

Investigators said they located and removed approximately 25 campsites during the Jan. 18 sweep.

“Additionally, mortar style fireworks, multiple edged weapons, pellet rifles, gas masks, and a blow torch were recovered,” the GBI noted.

The GBI said law enforcement officers were clearing the encampment as part of an “operation to identify people who are trespassing and committing other crimes on the property,” according to FOX News.

Officers were moving through the wooded property at approximately 9 a.m. on Jan. 18 when they encountered a man inside one of the tents, the GBI said.

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

GBI Director Michael Register later said the gunman opened fire on the trooper “without warning,” FOX News reported.

The trooper returned fire to defend himself, Director Register said.

The suspect was pronounced dead at the scene, FOX News reported.

The GBI identified him as 26-year-old Manuel Esteban Paez Teran.

The injured trooper was evacuated from the area and transported to a local hospital with a gunshot wound to his abdomen.

He underwent emergency surgery and has since been stabilized, the GBI said.

The Georgia Department of Public Safety said the wounded hero remains in the intensive care unit, according to The Post Millennial.

His identity was not immediately released.

Investigators said they recovered the suspect’s handgun at the scene, as well as multiple shell casings, FOX News reported.

Director Register said the encampment has been an ongoing problem and that the rioters are “endangering the community and the citizens around this area,” FOX News reported.

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

A post on the Scenes from the Atlanta Forest Twitter page urged people to participate in a “Night of Rage” on Jan. 20, FOX News reported.

The post encouraged followers to carry out “reciprocal violence” on “police and their allies,” according to the news outlet.

“Consider this a call for reciprocal violence to be done to the police and their allies,” the post read. “On Friday, January 20th, wherever you are, you are invited to participate in a night of rage in order to honor the memory of our fallen comrade.”

The group made a similar post on its website on Wednesday.

“The worst has come to pass. An unnamed forest defender has been shot and killed in Weelaunee,” the call to action read. “Consider this a call for reciprocal violence to be done to the police and their allies. On Friday, January 20th, wherever you are, you are invited to participate in a night of rage in order to honor the memory of our fallen comrade. Love and rage Defend the Atlanta Forest.”

“DEFEND THE ATLANTA FOREST NIGHT OF RAGE FRIDAY JANUARY 20TH MAKE THEM PAY,” the group reiterated.

The group has claimed it is affiliated with the Defend the Atlanta Forest group, which has played a major role in the encampment and the ongoing problems there, FOX News reported.

“Our officers are on high alert, and we will continue our work to keep our streets safe for our residents, businesses, and visitors alike,” police said in a statement to WSB. “We remain in close contact with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners and are grateful for their commitment to our shared goal of creating the safest communities possible for our city.”

A joint task force comprised of the GBI, Georgia Attorney General’s Office, Atlanta Police Department, Georgia State Patrol, DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, DeKalb County Police Department, Georgia Emergency Management Agency, Department of Natural Resources, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been working for months to combat the occupation of the site and the ongoing illegal activities occurring there, according to the news outlet.

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.

They have been identified as 20-year-old Leonardo Vioselle, 25-year-old Serena Hertel, 25-year-old Nicholas Olson, 22-year-old Francis Carroll, and 22-year-old Arieon Robinson.

Investigators said that at least four of the suspects are from out-of-state.

Hertel is from California, Robinson is from Wisconsin, Olson is from Nebraska, and Carroll is from Maine, according to the GBI.

In addition to the domestic terrorism charges levied against each of the five suspects, Robinson is also facing charges of criminal trespass and obstruction.

Vioselle has been charged with possession of tools for the commission of a crime.

Hertel is facing additional charges of aggravated assault, inciting a riot, obstruction, and criminal trespass, WXIA reported.

Olsen was charged with aggravated assault, interference with government property, and obstruction.

Carroll’s additional charges include aggravated assault, felony obstruction, criminal trespass, interference with government property, and possession of tools for the commission of a crime, WXIA reported.

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.

View all articles
Written by Holly Matkin

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