Murder of Manuel Paez Teran: The Eco-Activist’s Family Speaks Out
Manuel Paez Teran was sure that the Stop Cop City movement would bring a better future for new generations. But he didn’t know he wouldn’t see the fruits of his activism.
A Georgia State Patrol trooper shot and killed Teran during a raid on the Stop Cop City encampment last January. The camp was located near construction sites for a massive police and firefighter training center known as “Cop City.”
Terán thus became the first environmental activist to be killed by police in United States history.
The Atlanta Police Department claims the young activist opened fire without warning, something his family denies.
In fact, lawyers for Manuel Paez Teran’s family said the local Georgia coroner’s office has yet to complete an autopsy.
Two months after the environmental activist died, the family still does not get closure.
Civil rights attorney Wingo Smith said he learned the news in a brief phone call from Patrick Bailey, director of the Dekalb County medical examiner’s office. The director said the autopsy report would be available in several weeks, Smith said.
Bailey said they would forward the final report, when completed, to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and possibly to a special prosecutor.
Paez Teran’s family recently scattered the ashes of “Tortuguita,” as he was known, over the forest that the activist defended.
Manuel Paez Teran died ‘with his hands raised’
Despite the Atlanta Police Department’s report, Tortuguita’s family announced the results of their own autopsy. The examination shows that the activist was sitting cross-legged with his hands raised when a hail of bullets hit him.
“Manuel was looking death in the face, hands raised when killed,” civil rights attorney Brian Spears said.
Smith’s law firm has launched a lawsuit against the city of Atlanta. They are seeking video and audio recordings made during the raid in the woods southeast of Atlanta.
“There’s no question the police went into this encounter with the determination to kill this man,” veteran pathologist Werner Spitz told The Guardian.
A life dedicated to activism
Manuel Paez Teran dedicated his short life to environmental activism. A Venezuelan by birth, Terán graduated from Florida State University. He was active in several activist movements, including Food Not Bombs.
Terán joined the Stop Cop City protests, a movement that followed the murder of George Floyd in 2020.
It is an initiative against the disproportionate use of law enforcement in the United States.
The Stop Cop City protesters opposed the construction of the Atlanta Public Training Facility near a predominantly Black neighborhood.
On the morning of January 18, 2023, Teran was inside a tent at the Stop Cop City encampment. At 9 a.m., the raid began. During the round-up, a State Patrol Officer was hit by a bullet allegedly from another officer. Immediately, the state patrol car fired at Teran, who died instantly.
In the following days, vigils and protests took place in several cities across the country and worldwide.
In response, the Georgia General Assembly has considered legislation to require state patrol officers to wear body cameras. Meanwhile, the family of Manuel Paez Teran is still waiting for answers.