Six police officers who shot and killed “Stop Cop City” protester Manuel Esteban Paez Terán will not face criminal charges, Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney George R. Christian ruled on Friday.
“The use of lethal (deadly) force by the Georgia State Patrol was objectively reasonable under
the circumstances of this case,” Christian, who was appointed to review the case after DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston recused herself, wrote. “No criminal charges will be brought against the Georgia State Patrol Troopers involved in the shooting of Manual Paez Teran.”
Georgia law enforcement has faced intense public scrutiny in the aftermath of the shooting, which took place on Jan. 18 during a law enforcement raid on protesters camped at the site of a planned $90 million law enforcement training center near Atlanta, Georgia, which has come to be known as “Cop City.”
Paez Terán was shot 57 times by six Georgia State Patrol Troopers, who alleged that Paez Terán had refused orders to exit a tent they were residing in and shot an officer in the leg. While, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI), the bullet recovered from the officer’s leg originated from a handgun legally purchased by Paez Terán, an autopsy by the DeKalb County Medical Examiner found no evidence of gunpowder residue on Paez Terán’s hands, and their death was ruled a homicide. An independent autopsy ordered by Paez Terán’s family concluded that the position of bullet wounds in both of their hands indicated they were likely raised when they were shot.
Additionally, despite claims from the GBI that no body camera footage exists of the shooting itself, in February authorities released video of the aftermath of the encounter, during which officers can be heard discussing the possibility that their injured colleague may have been shot by friendly fire.
“You fucked your own officer up,” one officer says.
“Did they shoot their own man?” another one asks.
Paez Terán’s family, as well as several national lawmakers in Congress, have called for an independent investigation into their death.
Attorney General Christian maintains that Paez Terán “refused to comply with the lawful commands of the Troopers to come out of a tent,” and “responded by shooting four (4) times his 9 mm pistol through the tent striking and seriously injuring a Georgia State Trooper. Six Troopers returned fire resulting in the death of Teran.”
Christian added that given the pending status of a widespread racketeering case brought against 60 members of the “Stop Cop City” protest movement, “request made for recordsin this case will be denied,” until the resolution of the prosecutions.