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GBI will continue investigating ‘Cop City’ shooting case after DeKalb DA recuses herself

Crime and public safety DeKalb County Trending

GBI will continue investigating ‘Cop City’ shooting case after DeKalb DA recuses herself

Photo provided by the GBI

DeKalb County, GA — The Georgia Bureau of Investigation will continue investigating the Jan. 18 death of an activist shot during a police raid near the site of a controversial police training facility.

The GBI rebuffed suggestions from activists opposed to the training facility, called “Cop City” by its detractors, that the agency can’t conduct an impartial investigation of the incident. The GBI’s announcement that it would stick with the investigation came hours after District Attorney Sherry Boston announced she would be recusing herself from the shooting investigation and requesting the appointment of a special prosecutor to review the GBI’s findings.

The GBI and the DeKalb County District Attorney are part of a multi-jurisdictional task force working to remove activists from the site of the training facility, which is located in DeKalb County’s South River Forest. Boston’s decision was prompted by her office’s connection to that task force.

“While there is no legal conflict, DA Boston cited the DeKalb County District Attorney Office’s involvement in the multi-jurisdictional task force as the primary reason for voluntary recusal from the officer-involved shooting associated with the operation,” the DA’s Office said in a press release.

The task force members are the GBI, the Atlanta Police Department, the FBI, the Georgia Attorney General’s Office, the DeKalb County Police Department, the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, the Georgia State Patrol, and the Department of Natural Resources.

Decaturish asked Bostion if she thinks the GBI can remain objective in the case when it also belongs to the task force.

“That is a question for the GBI,” Boston said. “… But what I can say is our roles in officer involved shootings are very different. The GBI is tasked with the collection of evidence. The prosecuting agency is tasked with making a decision as to whether charges are warranted or whether the shooting was justified. So we have two very different roles, and I’m looking solely at the role the prosecution agency plays in this investigation.”

On Jan. 18, a police officer shot and killed Manuel “Tortuguita” Esteban Paez Teran, 26. Teran is accused of shooting the trooper with a gun purchased in 2020. There is no body camera footage of the incident, and the wounded trooper has not been identified.

Following Boston’s announcement, Decaturish asked the GBI if it would be recusing itself since it is also part of the task force. The GBI indicated it will remain on the case.

“We are aware that DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston has recused herself from the January 18, 2023 officer involved shooting (OIS) case involving Manuel Esteban Paez Teran and a Georgia State Patrol trooper,” a spokesperson for the GBI said. “A special prosecutor will be assigned by the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council to review our findings related to this case. In the past decade, the GBI has investigated numerous OIS cases for local and state law enforcement.

“Our track record of impartiality precedes this January 18 incident. The GBI and Georgia State Patrol are two separate agencies. 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. Since the investigation began, we have been able to connect the handgun found at the scene by various means to Teran, who shot the trooper during the clearing operation. 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.”

A recent protest in Atlanta over the shooting made headlines around the world. Activists and demonstrators met peacefully at Underground Atlanta on Saturday afternoon, but a smaller group of demonstrators smashed windows and torched a police car.

Like activists arrested at the training center site, the people arrested in Atlanta are facing numerous charges, including domestic terrorism, which is a felony.

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