"Defund the Police" is written in large yellow lettering on a city street, seen from above.

New Body Cam Footage Calls Into Question Atlanta Police’s Claims Around ‘Cop City’ Protestor’s Death

What's that you say? The police may have lied?

When officers shot and killed a protestor during a raid on the encampments in the South River forest just outside of Atlanta last month, police initially claimed the man had fired at and struck an officer first. They also said there was no body cam footage to be released. But surprise, surprise, it appears not everything the police claimed about officer-involved violence has shaped up to be true. Video from four police body cams has been released to the public, calling everything the Georgia Bureau of Investigation initially said into question. In fact, video evidence suggests that the officer may have been hit by a bullet from another officer. 

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The raid had been a combined effort between Georgia state troopers and Atlanta police on a group of protestors who called themselves “the forest defenders.” The defenders have been working to protect the Atlanta Forest area from plans to build a giant law enforcement training center to be known as “cop city.” And while Georgia state troopers do not wear body cams, Atlanta police do. So while the actual shootings were not captured on video, some of the surrounding reactions and context were. And they are very telling. 

It was state troopers who shot and killed the 26-year-old protestor, Manuel Terán, a Florida native who went by the name Tortuguita. And the story told to the public says that the 13 shots they fired into his body were fired only after he had first shot and struck a state trooper in the groin, who later required hospitalization. According to the GBI, Terán fired “without warning,” and a gun of the same type he purchased in 2020 that matched the bullets that hit the trooper was found at the forest scene later. The GBI also claimed there was no body cam footage to release.

However, when Atlanta police released video from their group of four officers, a whole new narrative of possibilities opened up. First of all, if the GBI was lying about the existence of bodycam footage surrounding the incident, are they telling the whole truth about everything else? We don’t know. Second, the Atlanta police suggest to each other that the gunfire is not from protestors, but is “suppressed gunfire” coming from another officer. 

At one point, you can the Atlanta police discuss hearing the shots with each other, with one initially saying: “They’re shooting at us,” while another disagrees,” saying, “Nah, that sounded like suppressed gunfire.” “Yeah, it did,” another officer replies. After a few moments of muffled radio sounds, another officer very clearly exclaims, “You fucked your own officer up!”

The GBI is currently continuing to investigate the incident, while civil rights groups are requesting independent investigations. 

(featured image: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)


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Author
Cammy Pedroja
Author and independent journalist since 2015. Frequent contributor of news and commentary on social justice, politics, culture, and lifestyle to publications including The Mary Sue, Newsweek, Business Insider, Slate, Women, USA Today, and Huffington Post. Lover of forests, poetry, books, champagne, and trashy TV.