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GBI says State Trooper injured during ‘Cop City’ raid wasn’t hit by friendly fire

Crime and public safety DeKalb County Trending

GBI says State Trooper injured during ‘Cop City’ raid wasn’t hit by friendly fire

Photo provided by the GBI

This story has been updated. 

DeKalb County, GA — The GBI says its investigation so far shows that a State Trooper injured during a raid near the site of a proposed police training center wasn’t hit by friendly fire.

The GBI’s statement came a day after Atlanta Police released body camera video from the Jan. 18 incident. Police officers shot and killed Manuel “Tortuguita” Esteban Paez Teran, 26, on Jan. 18 near an 85-acre police/fire training facility located in DeKalb County’s South River Forest. Activists call it “Cop City.” A State Trooper was also shot and wounded. Police allege Teran had a gun and have provided evidence that Teran purchased a gun in 2020.

At one point during the video, an APD officer says, “Man…you f#$!ed your own officer up.”

A GBI spokesperson said despite the officer’s statement, that is not what happened.

“In those videos, at least one statement exists where an officer speculates that the Trooper was shot by another officer in crossfire,” the spokesperson for GBI said. “Speculation is not evidence. Our investigation does not support that statement.”

The Atlanta Police Department released a statement to the press saying the officer who made that comment on the video didn’t know what he was talking about.

“In reviewing our officer’s body worn camera footage, it is apparent that the shooting situation evolved quickly and our officers had no immediate knowledge of the events at the shooting site at the time the shooting occurred,” a spokesperson for APD said. “Several responding officers are heard commenting about the shooting as they approached the site. We have found no evidence to suggest these officers had any information on the events surrounding the shooting prior to their comments.”

The spokesperson asked for the public’s patience while it finishes its investigation.

“In addition to the collection of evidence, forensic evaluation and analysis, the investigative process includes among other things the interview of not only the officers at the immediate scene, but also all personnel who were present during the operation,” the spokesperson said. When the investigation is complete, all videos will be provided.”

However, there will not be a video of the shooting itself because State Troopers were not wearing body cameras at the time. So far, the GBI has resisted calls to step aside from the investigation. 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.

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.

Democrats in DeKalb County’s state legislative delegation have mostly refrained from asking the GBI to turn over the investigation to another agency.

“I don’t have an indication that the GBI is unfair about the way they go about these investigations. I don’t really have a problem with it, right now,” state Sen. Elena Parent said.

State Sen. Gloria Butler said she is waiting for more information about the Jan. 18 incident.

“As this information comes to light, I, along with my colleagues in the GA Senate Democratic Caucus, will be in a better position to make recommendations on policies and changes that might be needed,” Butler said. “We owe it to our constituents to keep them safe and are in conversation with the Mayor’s Office and others to understand how best to do that. I expect there will be a robust and impartial investigation by the GBI into the tragic shootings on January 18th, and I hope the results will provide answers to painful questions.”

State Rep. Long Tran said, “I have not been presented with a reasonable reason for them to step aside.”

State Sen. Gail Davenport said she’s open to the idea of the FBI taking over the investigation from the GBI. Both agencies are on the task force responsible for removing activists from the site.

“Since the public outcry is rather strong regarding the death of 26-year-old environmental activist … it might help ease tensions to bring in the FBI to lead the investigation,” Davenport said. “While the inquiry continues, we will keep Mr. Teran’s family and the family of the State Trooper in our prayers.”

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