ATLANTA — A suspect fired shots on law enforcement striking a Georgia State Patrol trooper during an operation Wednesday morning to remove people from the area near "Cop City," a public safety training facility being built in southeast Atlanta, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation director said.
The state trooper is in stable condition in the intensive care unit after undergoing surgery at Grady Hospital. The suspect who allegedly fired the shots died on the scene when law enforcement returned fire, GBI director Mike Register said.
It all started around 9 a.m. when officers told the man who was inside a tent in the woods that he had to leave. The man did not comply and promptly shot the trooper, according to GBI. Other officers then returned fire where they hit the man.
Multiple statements by the protest movement identified the person killed as a protester.
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Authorities say this is an ongoing operation to remove the protestors who Register said were conducting "criminal activity." Four others were detained Wednesday.
There have been several clashes between the protesters and police or other city service employees in recent months. Last month, five people were arrested at the site and charged with domestic terrorism.
A nearby homeowner, Marc Bolden, told 11Alive's Kary Belger on Wednesday that tensions between law enforcement and protesters had started to "ratchet up" since those arrests.
The protesters have had semi-permanent encampments for about a year in the forested area where the Atlanta Police Foundation intends to build the training facility.
"Yeah, it's related. It's in the same area," Register said. "We were over there doing a clearing operation and basically just to clear people out of the area."
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Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said the city is giving "full support" to state and county partners to secure the site.
"Our prayers of a speedy and full recovery are with this trooper," Dickens said.
Protesters said in a release they are planning two vigils for the person who was killed, one tonight (Jan. 18) at 6 p.m. at the intersection of Moreland and Euclid and another on Friday (Jan. 20), also at 6 p.m.
Here is a photo from the "Dinner and Vigil" in Little Five Points to remember the person who was killed.
They said responsibility for the incident is on increasingly aggressive law enforcement tactics to clear the protest encampments. The GBI characterized the operation as "asking people to leave," requesting ID and "if they comply, so be it."
The protest statements also claimed operations to clear the encampments continued after the shootings, and asserted it was "not clear" who fired the first shot this morning. One group aligned with the protesters, the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, said it was "preparing a legal team to investigate and pursue a wrongful death suit" in the incident.
The protesters have opposed the facility on environmental and historical grounds, saying it would decimate one of the largest preserved forest areas in the city and desecrate historically Native American land of the Muscogee Creek people, who once lived in the woods and called it the Weelaunee Forest before being displaced by white settlers in the early 19th Century.
They also oppose it on the grounds that the land was once the site of the Old Prison Farm, a jail complex that was billed during its operation in the mid-20th Century as an "Honor Farm" where prisoners farmed the land as a "dignified" means of imprisonment, a practice which has since been scrutinized for its profit generation and exploitation of unpaid labor.
Atlanta Police have characterized the tree-sitters occupying the forest as outsiders, though there has also been visible local opposition from community groups who oppose the facility both environmentally and for its placement in a predominantly Black section of the city. The police chief previously said several arrested on the site had out-of-state driver's licensees.
11Alive has crews on the scene and at the hospital to learn more about the situation. The identities of the trooper and the suspect have not been released.
The GBI is handling the investigation into the shooting involving law enforcement.
This is a developing story. Check back often for new information.
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