An environmental activist died nearly two months ago near Atlanta after raising his hand and being shot from head to toe by police, the man’s family and lawyers said Monday.
Family lawyers said the worker known as “Tortuguita,” whose full name is Manuel Esteban Páez Terán, suffered 14 gunshot wounds on January 18 — including in his right eye.
Loved ones have said Tortugueta, 26, was leading a peaceful protest and Occupy South River Forest.
Attorney Brian Spears told reporters, “Manuel was shot multiple times and with different firearms, finding and cutting tracks of bullets running through the body.”
Attorneys said the autopsy performed by former state medical examiner Dr. Chris Sperry showed that the fatal wound was a shot through Tortugueta’s right eye, with other wounds to his left upper chest, abdomen, arms and legs.
Tortugueta identified as non-binary and used they/them pronouns.
Spears said, “The gunshot to the head would have killed them instantly, but probably … not before they were able to raise their arms and hands in front of their bodies.”
Police entered the forest on 18 January in an attempt to clear the area of activists who had camped there.
The GBI claims that Tortugueta shot and wounded a state trooper before officers could retaliate. However, there is no body camera footage of the soldier shooting, the state agency has said.
The Atlanta Police Department plans to build an 85-acre training facility in the woods, just southeast of the city limits.
But environmental groups oppose those construction plans, claiming it would destroy a tree canopy, harm habitat for amphibians and migratory birds, and lead to urban flooding.
The struggle over “Cop City” has been going on for almost two years. Tortugueta was shot during a protest against a police facility.
A representative for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday. A spokeswoman for Atlanta police declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation over the confrontation.
Tortugueta’s mother, Belkis Teran, and her attorneys said state investigators have been slow to release any information.
“I try to be strong in order to continue Manuel’s legacy,” said the grieving mother. “For the love of my family and for all those who loved Manuel, I seek answers for the murder of my child. I am seeking answers for the murder of my child.”
In the confrontation that ended in Tortugueta’s death, seven others were arrested.
“The forest was being cleared in an unprecedented crackdown against the protesters. The police went into the woods that morning to plan the violence,” said Jeff Filipovits, another attorney for the family.