Lawyers for family of Manuel Teran dispute official narrative of his death

Manuel Esteban Paez Teran was killed by officers during a raid of the South River Forest area after the GBI says he opened fire, striking a GSP trooper. (Supplied)

Lawyers for the family of a man who was shot and killed by Georgia State Patrol troopers during a clearing operation on the site of the future Atlanta Public Safety Training Center plan to hold a press conference on Monday morning.

Decatur-based civil rights attorneys Brian Spears and Jeff Filipovits are expected to dispute the official autopsy results of 26-year-old Manuel Teran and release findings from their independent autopsy.


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A joint task for conducts a "clearing operation" controversial "Cop City" Atlanta Police Department training facility on Jan. 18, 2023. (FOX 5)

Manuel Teran’s family to file ‘open records’ lawsuit

They also are expected to discuss a lawsuit filed this week against the city of Atlanta under the Georgia Open Records Act. The suit alleges the Georgia Bureau of Investigation asked the Atlanta Police Department to not release further body camera video from that operation, as originally promised, leaving the family no option but to suit in an attempt to get to the truth.

"During its investigation, the GBI has selectively released information framing its narrative while actively preventing Manuel’s family from obtaining any information," said family attorney Jeff Filipovi. "The GBI will not even tell us what type of evidence it has. Now, it says that the City of Atlanta cannot release the public records sought by Manuel’s family."

"Imagine the police killed your child. And now then imagine they won’t tell you anything. That is what we are going through," said Belkis Teran, Manuel’s mother.

"The GBI has had more than enough time to interview all witnesses. Once those interviews are complete, there is no reason to withhold this evidence," said attorney Brian Spears.

The GBI responded in a release Friday night writing:

"The actions of the GBI to prevent inappropriate release of evidence are solely intended to preserve the integrity of the investigation and to ensure the facts of the incident are not tainted. The GBI investigation still supports our initial assessment. All the facts, to include any information brought forward by the family’s attorney, will be assessed along with all other investigative information by the special prosecutor. The GBI cannot and will not attempt to sway public opinion in this case but 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."

Autopsy results in death of Manuel Teran

According to the law enforcement narrative, Teran was inside a tent in Intrenchment Creek Park as a task force of law enforcement officers raided it on January 18. The official autopsy conducted by the DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s Office said Teran was shot 13 times by multiple different guns.

The family’s independent autopsy report concluded Teran’s hands were raised and facing multiple individuals at the time of the shooting.

"Both Manuel’s left and right hands show exit wounds in both palms. The autopsy further reveals that Manuel was most probably in a seated position, cross-legged when killed," the family’s attorney expressed in a release sent Friday.

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

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

The Georgia State Patrol, as a rule, does not have body-worn cameras recording encounters, only dash cams. The exception for troopers in Jekyll Island and at the Georgia Capitol.

Manuel Teran accused of firing at troopers

During that fatal Jan. 18 incident, Teran is accused of firing at troopers "without warning," wounding one. Teran died after several other troopers returned fire, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said.

The injured trooper, whose name has not been released, was shot in the "pelvic-area" and he was wearing a bullet-proof vest.

A photo of the gun was quickly released by investigations and GBI released records that show Teran legally bought the gun in 2020. The GBI said fragments from the gun match ballistics tests of the firearm.

However, lawyers for Teran’s family point to statement made by Atlanta police officers in the videos that were released which suggest there was friendly fire.

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)

Who is Manuel Teran?

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

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 my family is being put through this," said his brother.

Teran was one of dozens of activists who had 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.