ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia authorities say state troopers in January fatally shot an activist who had fired at authorities after a trooper shot pepper balls into the protester’s tent, according to incident reports obtained Friday by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The newspaper obtained multiple Georgia Department of Public Safety use-of-force incident reports through an open records request. The records offer the most complete account yet of authorities’ version of the Jan. 18 killing of Manuel Paez Terán.
Paez Terán was killed in DeKalb County's South River Forest as officers tried to clear activists who were camping near the site of a planned police and training center.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation continues to examine the shooting and has released few details about the incident, other than to say that preliminary evidence supports authorities' assertions and that the trooper was shot with a bullet from a gun Paez Terán legally purchased in 2020.
According to the newly obtained incident reports, Paez Terán briefly spoke to officers who came to the protester’s tent and refused their demands to leave the area, prompting authorities to fire pepper balls. Authorities say Paez Terán then fired multiple shots from inside the tent, and six officers returned fire, shooting the activist more than a dozen times.
“I knew the suspect in the tent was shooting at us because I could hear the gunshots coming from inside of the tent," according to a report written by a Georgia Department of Public Safety corporal. “I could see the front of the tent door flapping as the bullets ripped through it and I could hear bullets striking the vegetation surrounding me.”
The corporal said authorities had encountered Paez Terán inside the tent, and at one point the activist told the officers: “No, I want you to leave."
The corporal said Paez Terán was “very confident” in asking authorities to leave and “it was immediately apparent” that the protester had “no intentions of cooperating."
The corporal also wrote that, prior to the gunfire, he told Paez Terán that officers were about to fire chemical agents into the tent and that Paez Terán would be charged with criminal trespassing.
A few protests have turned violent, including earlier this month when more than 150 masked activists left a nearby music festival and stormed the proposed site of the training center, setting fire to construction equipment and throwing rocks at retreating law enforcement officers.
The Atlanta City Council approved building the proposed $90 million Atlanta Public Safety Training Center in 2021, saying a state-of-the-art campus would replace substandard offerings and boost police morale.
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