Experts say decision not to make evidence available to family of Manuel Paez Terán or public sets ‘frightening’ precedent.

by Timothy Pratt, The Guardian

The state of Georgia is refusing to release evidence tied to the police shooting and killing of an activist protesting a police and fire department training center known as “Cop City”, prompting concern from police accountability experts who say this sets a “frightening” precedent .

District attorney George Christian released a 31-page report earlier this month concluding that the 18 January shooting of Manuel Paez Terán, or “Tortuguita”, was “objectively reasonable”. Paez Terán was one of a small group of “forest defenders” camping in a wooded public park to protest Cop City, planned for a separate part of the forest south-east of Atlanta, Georgia, less than a mile away. Dozens of officers from multiple agencies raided the park; the state claims Paez Terán fired a gun first, prompting six officers to shoot the activist. The activist sustained 57 gunshot wounds and died nearly instantly.

Protesters gathered on 5th Avenue and march to JP Morgan Headquarters in New York to rally against Atlanta Cop City on March 9, 2023

The Georgia bureau of investigation (GBI), the agency charged with the investigation, also announced that the evidence would not be released to the Paez Terán family or to the public because the movement itself is the subject of a separate “criminal investigation and prosecution”. That evidence includes “photographs, audio witness interviews, crime scene drawings and reports, forensic lab reports … and body camera (video and audio)”.

Jon Feinberg, a Philadelphia civil rights attorney and incoming president of the National Police Accountability Project (NPAP), called the announcement “unique and chilling”.

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