DeKalb DA withdraws from all cases against 'Cop City' protesters, state AG charges still stand

Law enforcement during a multi-jurisdictional sweep of Intrenchment Creek Park near the proposed Atlanta Public Safety Training Center in March. (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

This post was updated at 4:15p.m.

DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston announced Friday that her office is withdrawing from all cases related to the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center that opponents have dubbed “Cop City.” This includes domestic terrorism and related charges for approximately 42 people arrested during demonstrations against the center.

In an exclusive interview with WABE’s Rose Scott, Boston cited “fundamentally different prosecution philosophies” between her and Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr’s office.

“We had some differences — when I say we, I mean myself and the attorney general’s office — about who should be charged and what they should be charged with,” Boston said.

DeKalb and the state’s attorney general had concurrent jurisdiction over these cases. Boston’s decision to step away means Carr’s office will solely oversee the prosecution of all 42 protesters.

Boston confirmed her objections against charging Thomas Webb Jurgens, an observer with the Southern Poverty Law Center who was arrested along with protesters and charged with domestic terrorism.

“That was one of the touch points of a number of touch points that ultimately led me to make the decision that I have made here now,” she said. “The value set of our office is that I will only proceed on cases that I believe I can make beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Leading up to the arrests, protesters had been occupying the forest near the proposed training center for over a year.

Boston said it was detrimental for law enforcement to have to react to a situation that had been slowly eroding for some time.

“Joining a task force to try to address an issue that was already bursting at the seams … For us as law enforcement, I would have said, if I could go back, we should have started much sooner and then perhaps could have avoided the death of someone and a law enforcement officer being seriously injured after that incident.”

Georgia State Patrol officers shot and killed 26-year-old Manuel Teran during a clearing operation in January. Authorities say Teran shot a state trooper in the abdomen, but an official autopsy from the DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s Office found no gunpowder residue on Teran’s hands.

In a press release on Friday, Boston’s office said they would address any future arrests related to the training center like any other in their jurisdiction.  

In statement released on Friday, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr released the following statement:

“While the District Attorney has decided to no longer assist in this case, our office is fully committed to moving forward with the prosecution of those who have engaged in or supported violent acts surrounding the Public Safety Training Center. If you shoot police officers, throw Molotov cocktails at law enforcement, vandalize private homes and businesses, and set fire to police vehicles and offices, you will be held accountable. We will not waver when it comes to keeping Georgians safe and putting a stop to violent crime in our state.”