Autopsy reveals ‘Cop City’ activist had 57 gunshot wounds

Independent autopsy of Manuel Paez Terán’s body differs significantly from the one performed by the state

Abe Asher
Friday 21 April 2023 04:52 BST
Atlanta police release aftermath video of 'Cop City' activist death

An autopsy of activist Manuel Paez Terán’s body conducted by the DeKalb County medical examiner’s office has found he was hit with at least 57 gunshot wounds, casting further doubt on the police narrative of his killing.

Terán, known to friends as Tortuguita, was a 26-year-old environmental activist participating in “Cop City”, the movement to stop the construction of a sprawling new police training centre in the forest outside of Atlanta when he was shot to death by law enforcement officers during a raid in January.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation claimed Terán shot a state trooper before he was shot in return, but an independent autopsy commissioned by Terán’s family cast doubt on that assertion – as has the DeKalb medical examination, which did not find any evidence of gunpowder on Terán’s hands.

Police officers did not have their body cameras on during the shooting. There is only body camera footage from the aftermath of the shooting.

The independent autopsy, which was performed at the request of Terán’s family, found he was most likely shot while they had their hands up.

According to Axios, the DeKalb medical examiner’s report said it cannot be determined what position Terán was in when they were shot, and that any claim that Terán was “in any particular position at a specific point in time is fraught with potential inaccuracies”.

Nevertheless, the finding that Terán was shot more than 50 times has fueled arguments that he was killed execution-style and not in self defense.

Some activists and journalists have also viewed as suspect the fact that it took more than three months for the country to release the autopsy, which presumably was completed in the days following the killing.

The medical examiner has ruled Terán’s death a homcide.

A state investigation into the shooting remains ongoing, as does construction of the police training centre that Terán was trying to stop.

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