DeKalb DA recuses herself from filing charges in shooting case at ‘Cop City’

DeKalb District Attorney Sherry Boston says at a press conference Jan. 25 she is recusing her office from filing charges in the shooting case of Manuel Teran at the proposed site of Atlanta's Public Safety Training Facility. (Chamian Cruz/WABE)

The DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office is recusing itself from the decision on whether to file charges in the officer-involved shooting at the planned site of Atlanta’s Public Safety Training Facility.

Authorities allege that during a raid on Jan. 18 at the site nicknamed “Cop City,” 26-year-old activist Manuel Teran — who went by the name “Tortuguita,” Spanish for “little turtle” — shot and injured a state trooper, and officers fired back, killing Teran. The site is located in DeKalb County, just south of Atlanta.

On Wednesday, DeKalb District Attorney Sherry Boston said she’s asked the Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia to appoint someone else to consider potential charges. It’s the first time she’s made such a decision since taking office in 2017, but she says it’s intended to remove at least one conflict of interest from the case.

“I hope that what this instills with protestors on the ground is that this will get a full, fair, impartial and independent look, which I think is important for our community and for everyone that is mourning the death of Manuel,” Boston said.

Since the shooting, protestors have increased calls for the City of Atlanta to cancel its planned construction of the training facility as well as an independent investigation into the death of Teran. But the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is typically asked by law enforcement agencies across the state to investigate officer-involved shootings, is still leading the investigation.

Boston said there is no legal conflict with her office accepting the case after the GBI completes the investigation, but she believes recusal “is the best course of action.”

“The overreaching reasoning for my recusal is that it is simply the right thing to do,” Boston said. “It avoids the appearance of any impropriety and is consistent with the mission of my office and our efforts to instill community trust and confidence in our criminal justice system.”

Boston’s office, however, will still prosecute those arrested and charged with domestic terrorism in DeKalb County, including the seven individuals who were detained during the raid on Jan. 18.

The GBI said Wednesday that its “track record of impartiality” precedes the Jan. 18 incident. It added that so far in its investigation, it’s confirmed that the handgun used to shoot the trooper was purchased by Teran in 2020.

“As in every officer-involved shooting investigation, our procedure is to gather information concerning OIS events and turn the investigative file over to the prosecutor in the jurisdiction the event occurred for their review and action,” it stated. “We will continue to work with the Georgia Attorney General’s Office and the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office in reference to the ongoing domestic terrorism investigation.”