After deadly confrontation between cops and protestor, DeKalb Police increase patrols near ‘Cop City’A DeKalb County Police vehicle. Photo by Dean Hesse.
DeKalb County, GA — DeKalb County is increasing its patrols around the site of the future police training center, an 85-acre police/fire training facility located in DeKalb County’s South River Forest.
Activists call it “Cop City.” According to police, a protestor and a Georgia State Trooper exchanged gunfire on Jan. 18 as police cleared the site. The exchange wounded the State Trooper, and the protestor died. The protestor has been identified as Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, 26, who was also known as Tortuguita. Following the shooting, about 300 people gathered for a vigil in Little Five Points to remember Tortuguita.
Another event in response to the shooting is being held at Underground Atlanta this weekend. There’s also a vigil planned for tonight, Jan. 20, at 6 p.m. It will be held at Weelaunee People’s Park, 3251 West Side Pl, Atlanta, GA 30316.
The shooting is turning into an international story. According to Stop Cop City, solidarity vigils are planned tonight and Saturday across the country, in New York City, Pontiac, Mich., Santa Cruz, Cali., Chattanooga, Tenn., Richmond, Va., Miami, Fa., Seattle, Wash., Bellingham, Wash., Boise, Idaho, Chicago, Urbana-Champaign, Ill, Philadelphia, Pa, and Dallas, Texas. There is also a vigil planned in London, the Stop Cop City organizers say.
The Georgia Department of Public Safety said it won’t release the name of the injured trooper, saying, “Nondisclosure of the Troopers name is necessary for the protection of life, safety, and public property.”
Other activists at the site on Jan. 18 were rounded up and charged with domestic terrorism, the same charges hanging over the heads of activists arrested in December. Activists maintain they are protecting the forest and want to stop cop city’s construction. The cops say the activists are violently disrupting lawful activities at the site.
There is no body camera footage of the event, the GBI told Decaturish content partner WABE.
The GBI spokesperson told Decaturish, “The operation consisted of multiple law enforcement partners. Although we have bodycam footage from the day of the operation, we do not have bodycam footage of the shooting incident. The law enforcement officers wearing bodycam were not close enough to the shooting itself to capture it. This investigation remains active and ongoing.”
So, the public is left with only the word of police and activists to make sense of what happened. Unsurprisingly, the cops and activists have different versions of events. The cops say Tortuguita fired at them after being located inside a tent in the woods.
Activists say the public shouldn’t implicitly trust the cops’ version of events.
“One officer was shot; it is not clear whether or not this was a result of police fire, a protestor, or a police induced action,” the group said in a press release. “Community members have been calling in to the Mayor, the Atlanta Police Foundation, and DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond to demand the police operation in Weelaunee Forest be ended immediately.”
Cops say they’ve recovered “mortar style fireworks, multiple edged weapons, pellet rifles, gas masks, and a blow torch” at the scene of the Jan. 18 shooting.
Stop Cop City activists say police have endangered activists with a militarized response.
“Police have repeatedly raided the protest encampments in Weelaunee Forest, harassed and detained neighbors walking through the park, and attacked protestors with tear gas and rubber bullets,” a press release from Stop Cop City says. “During past raids, police have consistently escalated violent tactics on protesters who were sitting in trees or standing in a public park. On multiple occasions, they have cut tree limbs and rope out from under tree sitters in a fashion likely to cause serious injury or death.”
DeKalb Police are asking for the public’s help in securing the training center site.
“The DeKalb County Police Department will be increasing visibility and patrols in neighborhoods near Intrenchment Creek,” a press release from the Police Department says. “These include neighborhoods in the vicinity of Fayetteville Road, Key Road and Constitution Road. The DeKalb County Police Department prioritizes the safety of our community. Residents who see any suspicious activity should call 911.”
DeKalb has fewer than 600 active police officers on its staff, according to Decaturish contributor George Chidi. Of those 600 or so officers, only about 330 or so are serving in its patrol division, answering 911 calls. DeKalb County is budgeted for 798 officers and claims an “authorized” strength of 860.
Columnist George Chidi contributed to this article.
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