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Attorneys: Independent autopsy shows activist had hands up when fatally shot by officers at training center site

The family of Manuel Esteban Paez Teran filed a lawsuit against the City of Atlanta. The autopsy and lawsuit will be discussed at a news conference Monday.

ATLANTA — A second, independent autopsy showed that Manuel Esteban Paez Teran’s hands were raised when officers shot and killed the protester in January near the planned site for the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, according to lawyers representing the family.

Decatur-based attorneys Brian Spears and Jeff Filipovits plan to hold a news conference Monday to discuss the autopsy and a lawsuit Paez Teran's family filed against the City of Atlanta in Fulton County Superior Court under the Georgia Open Records Act.

The attorneys said this autopsy will show that Paez Teran was facing "multiple individuals who were firing weapons." Both of Paez Teran's palms show exit wounds, and the activist was "most probably in a seated position, cross-legged when killed."


"Although the Georgia Bureau of Investigation conducted an autopsy on Manuel’s body, the agency refuses to release the report to Manuel’s family or to meet with them," Spears and Filipovits said in the news release. "Police claim that Manuel shot at officers, but videos released by the City of Atlanta include statements by police officers suggesting that friendly fire injured the officer shot during the raid."

11Alive requested a copy of Paez Teran's autopsy on Feb. 6. The GBI said the DeKalb County Medical Examiner's Office was in charge of the record. The county office told 11Alive that the report was not ready then.

The GBI released a statement Friday evening that the DeKalb Medical Examiner's Office conducted Paez Teran's autopsy. The agency also said it's still working to protect the integrity of the investigation. 

The family filed the lawsuit after the GBI prevented the City of Atlanta from providing additional audio and video evidence related to Paez Teran's shooting, citing the ongoing investigation, according to the news release.

"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 statement reads. "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."

The independent autopsy and statements from the Teran family dispute accounts from law enforcement that it was Paez Teran who shot first, wounding a member of the Georgia State Patrol before colleagues returned fire. The shooting occurred during a "clearing operation" at the site of the future training center —  called "Cop City" by protesters —  on Jan. 18.

The GBI previously matched the bullet that hit the trooper to a gun recovered at the scene. The agency also provided documents showing Paez Teran purchased the firearm.

While state troopers aren't generally equipped with cameras, footage of the shooting released on Feb. 8 showed Atlanta police officers reacting to the shooting. The video did not directly show the shooting of Paez Teran.

A previous autopsy ordered by the family showed Paez Teran had been shot 13 times.

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

Once officials release the autopsy being handled by the DeKalb County medical examiner, 11Alive will provide an update on the case.

11Alive's Meleah Lyden contributed to this report.    

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