Body camera footage from the Jan. 18 “clearing operation” at the site of Atlanta’s future public safety training complex raises “more questions than answers,” says the family of an environmental activist who was shot and killed during the incident.
Driving the news: The Atlanta Police Department uploaded footage this week from four body cameras taken from their officers assigned to last month’s multi-agency raid at the so-called “Cop City” site.
Manuel Esteban Paez Terán was shot and killed by a Georgia state trooper during the conflict. State law enforcement says the trooper was returning fire at Terán, who went by Tortuguita.
An independent autopsy showed Terán was shot at least 13 times, according to the AJC.
Details: In one 38-minute video, Atlanta officers were clearing the forest when they heard a rash of gunfire.
One officer can be heard asking, “Is this target practice?”
A few minutes later, another officer is heard saying, “you f***** your own officer up.”
Several officers are heard shouting from a distance, but it’s hard to make out what they are saying.
Because the Atlanta officers were a significant distance from the scene of the shooting, they can’t see what’s happening on the ground.
Why it matters: The inconclusive videos have only intensified speculation over what happened.
What they’re saying: Atlanta police spokesperson John Chafee told Axios in a statement that the responding officers “had no immediate knowledge of the events at the shooting site at the time the shooting occurred.”
Terán’s family released a statement Thursday through their attorneys, saying the videos confirm their fears that Terán was “massacred in a hail of gunfire.”
The family also said that the clearing “was a paramilitary operation that set the stage for the excessive use of force.” Family members are calling for a face-to-face meeting with the GBI and the DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Meanwhile, the GBI said in a statement that its investigation so far does not support the Atlanta officer’s “you f***** your own officer up” statement. GBI says it will release all videos from the scene after the investigation is complete.
“Memory and perception are fragile, and a myriad of factors can influence perception and memory,” it said, adding Georgia law allows agencies to delay the release of videos during active investigations.
Yes, but: The Southern Center for Human Rights, which supports activists and community members opposed to the training facility, said it’s “deeply concerned” about the footage.
It accuses Atlanta police of carrying out a raid without following its own body camera policies and procedures.
The Southern Center called on agencies who participated in the operation to release documentation of the incident and for domestic terrorism charges to be dropped.
What we’re watching: Atlanta police will continue uploading body camera footage as the videos are processed.