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Axios Atlanta

Family of activist killed at 'Cop City' sues Atlanta for records

By Kristal Dixon,

2023-03-14
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The family of the activist who was shot and killed in January by law enforcement during a clearing operation at "Cop City" has sued the city for not providing requested documents relating to the investigation.

Driving the news: The lawsuit was filed last week in Fulton County Superior Court. The family of Manuel Esteban Paez Terán released the results of an independent autopsy during a press conference Monday.


Details: According to the lawsuit, attorneys on Jan. 26 submitted an open records request to the Atlanta Police Department asking to see images, recordings, communications, and copies of statements relating to the Jan. 18 incident when Terán was shot and killed.

  • Representatives from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Georgia Attorney General's Office said those records were exempt from disclosure because they are part of an ongoing investigation.

What they're saying: "This has been a sort of blackout in terms of not being able to get the information about what happened," Wingo Smith, an attorney at Spears & Filipovits, LLC, which is representing Terán's family, told Axios.

The other side: Chata Spikes, APD's director of public affairs, told Axios it doesn't comment on pending litigation.

Catch up quick: The autopsy, conducted after an initial one performed by the DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s Office, shows Terán was “most probably in a seated position, cross-legged, with the left leg partially over the right leg."

  • The GBI said troopers fatally shot Terán after Terán fired upon a state trooper during the operation.
  • Bullet entrance wounds on their hands suggest Terán had the ability to raise their "hands and arms up and in front" of their body, with palms facing towards their upper body, according to the report.
  • It's also impossible to determine if Terán was holding a gun before they were shot multiple times by different firearms, the autopsy report states.

The other side: The GBI said Friday that it will "protect the integrity" of the investigation and will turn over its findings to the prosecutor appointed to handle the case. The agency said it will "continue to be led by the facts and truth."

  • "We understand the extreme emotion that this has caused Teran's family and will continue to investigate as comprehensively as possible," it said.

Go deeper: "Cop City" and the language of protests

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify the activist was shot and killed by law enforcement.

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