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Group protesting Atlanta Public Safety Training Center labeled by feds as 'domestic violent extremists'

A spokeswoman for DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston's office confirmed a press conference on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.
Credit: wxia

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — DeKalb County court records show 27 people have now been arrested as part of a criminal case connected to protests at the future site of the City of Atlanta Public Safety Training Center.

In arrest warrants, investigators are referring to a protest movement against the site, Defend the Atlanta Forest, as "a group classified by the United States Department of Homeland Security as a Domestic Violent Extremists." Many of the protesters who have occupied tree-sitting encampments at the site - dubbed "Cop City" by opponents - now face domestic terrorism charges after arrests during clearing operations.

11Alive's Tracey Amick-Peer also confirmed with the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia that Boston will recuse herself from the case involving the shooting at the site that left a trooper injured and an activist dead.

In a press conference, Boston said it was only that piece of the case she was recusing her office from - the shooting of the trooper, who has not been identified, and the death of the protester, Manuel Teran, who also went by the name Tortuguita.

Boston clarified that her office would still handle other "Cop City" cases involving protesters charged with domestic terrorism.

With the recusal, a special prosecutor would need to review the shooting investigation and weigh any potential charges for the officers involved. Under a change in Georgia law last year, the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia - and not the state attorney general - now has the authority for appointing special prosecutors.

On Friday, jail and court records showed 13 of the defendants were arrested and booked into the DeKalb County Jail. Each is charged with a single count of misdemeanor criminal trespassing and has been released from jail.

Others though are facing more serious charges. 

Seven of the defendants in the case were arrested last week following a deadly shooting at the property protesters have named "Cop City.'" Each is charged with felony domestic terrorism and criminal trespassing. 

According to the GBI, law enforcement officers were conducting a clearing operation to remove trespassers from the property and that is when they found several individuals. Also according to the GBI, one of the individuals was in a tent and when Georgia State Patrol troopers asked the person to leave that person shot at the trooper. Multiple troopers then returned fire, killing the individual, the bureau said. That person was later identified by GBI as 26-year-old Manuel Esteban Paez Teran.

The trooper was rushed to Grady where he underwent multiple surgeries and GSP last reported the trooper remained in the ICU.  

In court records, arrest warrants have now been released for five of the seven arrested following the shooting. Those individuals are Geoffrey Parsons, Sarah Wasilewski, Teresa Shen, Spencer Bernard Liberto, and Christopher Reynolds.

The remaining seven defendants in the case are all also charged with domestic terrorism and other felony crime. They were arrested prior to Wednesday, with most being taken into custody at the future police training center location in December.  

All of the DeKalb County defendants were previously released on bond.

The DeKalb County case doesn't include any charges connected to violence in Downtown Atlanta on Saturday that resulted in windows being smashed, ATMs being destroyed and an Atlanta Police cruiser being burned. The six people arrested following that incident are being charged by the Fulton County District Attorney's Office.

Only one of the 27 DeKalb County defendants is being charged though with crimes in both DeKalb and Fulton. 

22-year-old Francis Carroll of Maine was arrested in DeKalb County in December where he is charged with two counts of felony domestic terrorism, felony aggravated assault, felony interference with government property, and misdemeanor criminal trespass.

On Saturday, Atlanta Police arrested him following the violence in downtown

Carroll is now being held in the Fulton County Jail where he is charged with first-degree arson, criminal property damage, domestic terrorism, riot, and other charges. 

When Carroll was previously released in DeKalb County he was ordered by a judge to not return to the property on Key Road in DeKalb County that has been at the center of protests, have any contact with defendants in his case or have contact with the Defend the Atlanta Forest group.

The DeKalb County District Attorney's Office has now filed to revoke his bond in DeKalb County. 

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