A Georgia state trooper shot and killed a protester last month in Atlanta’s ongoing demonstration to stop the construction of a police training facility in a local forest. During the joint raid by local and state law enforcement, a state trooper was also reportedly shot in the groin.
“You fucked your own officer up.”
Police quickly established a narrative that took hold in the media: As police advanced to clear the protest camp on the grounds of the planned facility, which demonstrators dubbed “Cop City,” the trooper was fired upon and hit.
In response, the police said, officers shot and killed 26-year-old Manuel Terán, a protester who went by the name Tortuguita. An independent autopsy released Friday showed Terán was shot at least 13 times. Police said forensics showed that the round that injured the officer matched a gun found nearby, which Terán had bought.
Documentary evidence of the killing was scant: State troopers, who were directly involved in the killing, don’t wear body cameras in general. And while Atlanta police, whose officers were nearby, do, the department said in an initial statement on January 20 that no footage would be released from the operation, pending an ongoing investigation.
Moments after police opened fire on Tortugita, killing them, and Atlanta Police officer can be heard saying, "Man…you fucked your own officer up?" in reference to the trooper that was also shot. pic.twitter.com/qw8G0G34b0
— Atlanta Community Press Collective (@atlanta_press) February 9, 2023
On Wednesday night, however, the department reversed course and released body camera video from just after the incident. The footage appears to show officers asking whether the state trooper who had been shot was wounded by one of his own.
“You fucked your own officer up,” one Atlanta Police Department officer is heard saying in the footage released Wednesday. He later walks up to two other officers and asks, “They shoot their own man?”
After publication of this story, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, a statewide law enforcement agency that was involved in the raid and is administering a joint investigation into the shooting, referred The Intercept to a statement on the remarks by the officer. “In those videos, at least one statement exists where an officer speculates that the Trooper was shot by another officer in crossfire,” the statement says. “Speculation is not evidence. Our investigation does not support that statement.”
After initially declining to comment and referring questions to the GBI, a spokesperson from the Atlanta Police Department sent a statement to The Intercept after this story was published. “In reviewing our officers Body Worn Cameras footage, it is apparent the shooting situation evolved quickly and our officers had no immediate knowledge of the events at the shooting site at the time the shooting occurred,” Sgt. John Chafee, a spokesperson with the Atlanta police’s public affairs unit, said in the statement. “Several responding officers are heard commenting about the shooting as they approached the site. We have found no evidence to suggest these officers had any information on the events surrounding the shooting prior to their comments.”
A spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Public Safety directed questions to the GBI.
The shooting came as opposition mounted against Cop City, a massive $90 million training facility slated to overtake one of the largest patches of green spaces in the local area near Atlanta. At the time of the raid, the growing coalition of protesters, calling themselves forest defenders, had successfully blocked any progress toward construction of the facility.
In the aftermath of the deadly raid, initial GBI reports said that Terán had not complied with officers’ commands and shot the trooper during the “clearing operation.” Terán’s mother has said she does not believe they shot an officer.
After stating immediately that no camera footage of the shooting existed, GBI had acknowledged publicly five days later that footage did exist of the shooting’s aftermath.
Update: February 9, 2023, 4:45 p.m. ET
This story has been updated to include a statement that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation referred The Intercept to after publication.
Update: February 10, 2023
This story has been updated to include a statement from the Atlanta Police Department made after publication.