APD begins releasing videos of protester shooting

Atlanta Police Department (APD) began releasing body camera footage on Feb. 9 of the aftermath of a Jan. 18 officer-involved shooting that left an officer injured and activist Esteban Paez Teran, (also known as Tortuguita) dead.

The video release comes after a Feb. 6 press conference held by Teran’s family and their legal counsel questioning the investigation and asking for more details. Attorney Brian Spears, who represents the family, said a private autopsy showed that Teran was shot 12 or 13 times by officers.

“The GBI has selectively released information about Manny’s death,” said civil rights attorney Jeff Filipovits, who also represents the family. “They claim Manny failed to follow orders. What orders? The GBI has not talked about the fact that Manny faced a firing squad, when those shots were fired, or who fired them.”

In the APD footage, audio from the shooting can be heard as well as officers approaching the tent in which Teran was killed. The footage—which is more than two hours long—also shows officers clearing other encampments in the forest. No APD footage shows the actual shooting.

A point of interest in the videos has arisen around audio of officers speculating that the officer who was shot was shot as a result of crossfire from another officer. In response, GBI officials said “In those videos, at least one statement exists where an officer speculates that the Trooper was shot by another officer in crossfire. Speculation is not evidence. Our investigation does not support that statement.”

The shooting occurred in southwest DeKalb near the planned site of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Facility, dubbed Cop City by protesters, which has been the site of yearlong protests.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) officials have said that a multi-department encampment clearing operation was taking place on Jan. 18 when the shooting occurred. According to GBI, Teran did not comply with officers’ orders and shot at an officer. GBI officials state Teran was killed by officers’ return fire.

GBI officials said they have provided proof that Teran purchased a gun, but Teran’s family and their legal representation have continued to raise questions. After the Feb. 6 press conference, GBI officials said, “We are not releasing any videos currently because agents are continuing to conduct key interviews and want to maintain the integrity of the investigation.”

APD began releasing the footage Feb. 9 and said that more footage will be released later.

An APD spokesperson added that “the footage is from APD officers assigned to the January 18, 2023, clearing detail who were nearby and responded to the shooting at the time it occurred.”

GBI also clarified that the Georgia State Troopers who were involved in the shooting were not wearing body cams at the time of the shooting.

An APD spokesperson said, “videos are being processed and will be posted [on APD’s website] on a rolling basis.”

Videos can be accessed at atlantapd.org/Home/Components/News/News/3831/17 and on various YouTube channels.

GBI officials have said investigations generally take from 60 to 90 days to complete. According to a GBI spokesperson, GBI officials are following state procedures in not releasing audio segments and videos from the incident.

“Memory and perception are fragile, and a myriad of factors can influence perception and memory, including an individual’s background, experiences, the turmoil, and emotional impact of a significant incident, as well as the viewing of a video before giving a statement,” a GBI spokesperson said. “That is the rationale behind Georgia’s law which allows agencies to exempt the public disclosure of videos in an active investigation.”

Several local entities have also spoken out against the planned developed since the shooting.

A video on Twitter shows students from Atlanta University Center Consortium and Morehouse College interrupted a school function and asked school leaders to denounce the Atlanta Public Safety Training Facility.

Morehouse College faculty also posted an open letter against the development singed by 52 members of the school’s staff. Emory students held a vigil for Teran.

New York Times also posted two editorials from activists in recent weeks in opposition to Cop City.

The Guardian also reported that three members of the U.S. Congress have asked for an independent investigation into the death of Teran.

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