Atlanta police release body cam video of 'Cop City' clash

The Atlanta Police Department has released body camera footage related to the Jan. 18 shooting at the proposed site of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Facility, where environmental activist Manuel Esteban Paez Teran was shot and killed.

Updated Feb. 9 at 10:29 a.m. 

The Atlanta Police Department has released body cam footage of the Jan. 18 incident at the proposed site of the city’s public safety training facility, where environmental activist Manuel Esteban Paez Teran was shot and killed.

So far, authorities have said Teran was inside a tent at the site during a multijurisdictional operation to clear out the forest surrounding the area. The operation included Atlanta police, DeKalb County police, Department of Natural Resources, among others.

The GBI said that during the raid, Teran did not comply with officers’ commands, leading to “an exchange of gunfire,” where a state trooper was first shot and injured.

According to the agency, there is no body cam or dashcam footage of the shooting, only the aftermath, because troopers are generally not equipped with body cameras. 

But, it said, ballistic analysis shows the trooper was shot by a bullet from a handgun in Teran’s possession, and records show Teran legally purchased the firearm in 2020.

Activists and Teran’s family have called for any audio or video footage to be released. 

Atlanta police released four videos Wednesday evening from officers assigned to the “clearing detail who were nearby and responded to the shooting at the time it occurred.”

“Videos are being processed and will be posted to [our website] on a rolling basis,” it said.

One of the first videos shows Atlanta police walking through the forest and yelling out commands like “please step out of the tent” as they approach two tents. They then use a folding knife to destroy an unoccupied green tent, where they find a backpack with lighter fluid and other items. 

About 18 minutes into the video, multiple gunshots are heard being fired in the distance, lasting approximately 10 seconds. A private autopsy conducted last week revealed Teran was shot by several different officers 12 to 13 times, possibly more. 

“Is this target practice?” an officer asks.

The officers are then told to stop moving and take cover, followed by a command to make sure their body cameras are switched on. Another shot can be heard 10 minutes after the initial gunfire.

Later, as they approach the green tent again, officers warn protestors they’ll send the K9 unit if they don’t surrender.

“[Mess] around, and you’re gonna find out,” an officer says.  

They fire a nonlethal weapon into the tent approximately 10 times before confirming that it’s unoccupied. The video ends with an officer asking, “Did they shoot their own man?” 

While some officers say they don’t know, one officer can be heard saying, “Nah, it sounded like suppressed gunfire.”

Activists now say the clip confirms what they have been saying all along — that it was not Teran who shot and wounded a trooper, but another officer. 

Teran’s family attorney Jeff Filipovits on Wednesday once again called for all recordings to be released “from all agencies involved.” 

“The video shows that the operation to clear the forest was poorly planned and undisciplined, and the number of times officers fired at Manuel Paez Teran shocks the conscience,” Filipovits said. 

The Atlanta Police Department has not released an official statement on its decision to release the footage as of Thursday morning, but Mayor Andre Dickens continued to defend the planned public safety training facility, nicknamed “Cop City” by protestors, earlier this week.

DeKalb County has also issued land disturbance permits, allowing the project to move forward.