Autopsy: 'Cop City' protester had hands raised when killed

The family of Manuel Teran embrace after a press conference with their legal team to announce the details of a private autopsy and their Open Record's lawsuit against the City of Atlanta on March 13, 2023. (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

An environmental activist who was fatally shot in a confrontation with Georgia law enforcement in January was sitting cross-legged with their hands in the air at the time, the protester’s family said Monday as they released results of an autopsy they commissioned.

The family of Manuel Paez Terán held a news conference in Decatur to announce the findings and the filing of an open-records lawsuit seeking to force Atlanta police to release more evidence about the Jan. 18 killing of Paez Terán, who went by the name Tortuguita and used the pronoun they.

The family’s attorneys said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which has been probing the shooting for nearly two months, has prevented Atlanta police from releasing additional evidence to the family.

“Manuel was looking death in the face, hands raised when killed,” civil rights attorney Brian Spears said, citing the autopy’s conclusions. “We do not stand here today telling you that we know what happened. The second autopsy is a snapshot of what happened, but it is not the whole story. What we want is simple: GBI, meet with the family and release the investigative report.”

In a statement, the bureau said it’s preventing “inappropriate release of evidence,” to preserve the integrity of the investigation.

Authorities have said officers killed Paez Terán after the 26-year-old shot and seriously injured a state trooper while officers cleared activists from an Atlanta-area forest where officials plan to build a huge police and firefighter training center. The GBI statement says the investigation continues to support the agency’s initial assessment of what happened.