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A new autopsy reveals that an environmental activist protesting the planned construction of a police training facility in an Atlanta-area forest was shot by Georgia State Patrol with their hands in the air while likely seated cross-legged.

Officers told the community they shot 26-year-old forest defender Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, who went by Tortuguita, in self-defense after they allegedly fired first on Jan. 18. Yet lawyers for Tortuguita’s family say the autopsy directly contradicts that account.

“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,” lawyers said in a press release, NPR reported.

Jasmine Burnett, of Atlanta, center, chants and marches during a protest over plans to build a new police training center in Atlanta on Thursday. Photograph: Alex Slitz/AP

The family says Tortuguita was shot at least a dozen times. They’ve sued for the release of more information under Georgia’s Open Records Act, and the full autopsy is expected to be released at a press conference on Monday.

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

Protests against cop city continue amid autopsy

For months, Atlanta residents and supporters around the nation have joined in protests against the planned police training facility, dubbed “Cop City.” The plan would cost over $90 million and take up 85 acres of land. It would include a shooting range, a mock city for police and fire training scenarios, a K-9 unit and more.

Following heightened social unrest in the wake of the police killing of Tortuguita, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp sent the National Guard to Atlanta at the end of January to quell outrage. Dozens have been arrested, some charged with domestic terrorism.

 Yet as state and local authorities focus on property damage,  the Gov. has so far remained silent about findings from the autopsy.

autopsy cop city
In this aerial view, a structure sits on land owned by the city of Atlanta, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, in unincorporated DeKalb County. The Atlanta City Council has approved plans to lease the land to the Atlanta Police Foundation so it can build a state-of-the-art police and firefighter training center, a project that protesters derisively call “Cop City.” (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation hasn’t released a government autopsy or met with Tortuguita’s family. The agency claims there was no dashcam or body cam footage of the incident, while claiming bullets that injured a trooper came from a gun belonging to Tortuguita.

Meanwhile, the City of Atlanta released videos in which an officer suggests the trooper’s injuries may have resulted from friendly fighter.

“Watch your cross fire, watch your cross fire,” an officer can be heard saying in one of the videos.

Solidarity after shooting

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has reportedly blocked the City of Atlanta from releasing more video evidence.

“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 Georgia Bureau of Investigation said.

autopsy cop city
This photo provided by Daniel Esteban Paez shows Tortuguita, center, with their family in 2020 in Charleston, S.C. Officials have said officers fatally shot Tortuguita in self-defense after the protester shot a trooper Jan. 18, 2023, but activists argue it was a state-sanctioned murder of a beloved community member who was renowned for having a big heart. (Joel Paez via AP)

Those who knew Tortuguita say the person they knew was committed to nonviolence.

Efforts to organize against the police training facility have culminated under the group “Stop Cop City.”

“To be clear — cop city is not just a controversial training center. It is a war base where police will learn military-like maneuvers to kill Black people and control our bodies and movements,” the group says on its website.

On Thursday, organizers delivered a sign of solidarity and a clear message to Atlanta’s Black city leaders. About 400 Black, Latino, Native and White folks from inside and outside Atlanta marched from the King Center to the Atlanta Police Foundation building, the Guardian reported on Sunday.

“Mayor Andre Dickens – is this enough Black folks for you?” organizer Kamau Franklin said.

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...