Family of activist shot and killed near Atlanta police training center site holds news conference

The family of a protestor killed by the Georgia State Patrol at the site of a planned police training center dubbed "Cop City" by opponents will be held a news conference Monday morning.

"We know very little about what happened that day," said Jeff Filipovits, an attorney hired by the family of 26-year-old Manuel Teran.

A spokesperson for the family said a private autopsy paid for by the family reveals that Teran was shot at least thirteen times.

"Multiple officers riddled his body with bullets," said Brian Spears, who also represents the family.

"So far, we have selected information released from the GBI. They are not answering questions, they are not providing the family with any information to understand what happen in the forest on Jan. 18th," said Filipovits.

The family says they attempted to speak several times with the GBI about what happened and sent the agency a letter.

"The parents are here today, asking again to meet with the GBI, and we want the release of all audio and video recordings, including any drone footage of the shooting and the area in which he died. And we want the investigative report," said Spears.

Protestors have demanded the release of video or audio from that morning, but the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) said there is none.

"Manuel is dead. You cannot charge a dead man with a crime. There is no reason to withhold this information and there is no reason not to meet with the family," Spears said.

According to the law enforcement narrative, Teran was inside a tent in Intrenchment Creek Park as cops raided it on January 18.

The GBI said Teran did not comply with officers’ orders, leading to an "exchange of gunfire," first striking a Georgia State Trooper, who survived.

Manuel Esteban Paez Teran

Manuel Esteban Paez Teran  (Provided to FOX 5)

With no body camera video, activists and family members say they are skeptical of that narrative.

"It makes you feel like you’re unsafe," said Mike Morris at a recent protest against police brutality. "We expect to be protected and our officers to serve us."

In response to that skepticism, the GBI released records that show Teran legally bought the gun in 2020.

The GBI says this was the gun Manuel Esteban Paez Teran used to shoot a Georgia State Patrol trooper during a raid near the

The GBI says this was the gun Manuel Esteban Paez Teran used to shoot a Georgia State Patrol trooper during a raid near the "Cop City" Atlanta Public Safety Training Center. (Georgia Bureau of Investigation)

His mother, Belkin Teran, says he was a Venezuelan. She described him as a scholar and environmentalist who was an intellectual and had good manners.

"We are horrified by all that has happened to Manuel," she said.

His mother says he was very active in several international environmental programs and was there to defend the forest.

Joel Paez described his son as someone who was also caring for others, including those who were indigent or homeless. 

"Manuel was the one who will stop in the middle of the street and give $100 to a needy person," he said.

"I don't really have many friends and I was just fine with Manny, even though I had to share Manny to their cause, I loved him so much, and now may family is being put through this," said his brother.

Activists have been occupying the site in tents and tree houses to stop the construction of the training center because they believe the forest space is critical – and the training center will further what they call cops’ "urban warfare tactics" toward the public.

Related: Atlanta Riots Timeline: How 'Stop Cop City' movement led to violent night in Downtown

Seven Democratic state senators have written a letter calling for an independent investigation into the shooting.

Meanwhile, in a highly unusual move, DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston recused herself from the case.

"I believe being a part of the multi-jurisdictional task force puts us in a position that it is very possible that the community would feel that we were involved in it, and therefore cannot investigate our own," Boston told reporters.

Some activists are calling on the GBI to follow suit and recuse itself because of its involvement in that task force.