Autopsy shows that U.S. environmental defender Tortuguita was killed while sitting with their hands raised

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: Belkis Terán, the mother of Tortuguita, sits in the position that it is believed police killed the young environmental defender.

An independent autopsy shows that environmental defender Manuel Esteban Terán, known as Tortuguita, was shot by Georgia State Patrol police while sitting cross-legged with his hands raised on January 18 in the Weelaunee Forest in opposition to Cop City.

Tortuguita wase 26 years old, Indigenous Venezuelan, nonbinary, “a trained medic, a loving partner, a dear friend, a brave soul, and so much more.”

NBC News: “The autopsy, conducted by a former state medical examiner, Dr. Kris Sperry, showed the fatal wound was a shot through Tortuguita’s right eye, along with other wounds to the left upper chest, abdomen, arms and leg, lawyers said.”

NBC News reports: “An environmental activist died after raising hands and being shot from head to toe by police nearly two months ago near Atlanta, the person’s family and attorneys said Monday [March 13].”

That article adds: “The activist known as Tortuguita, whose full name is Manuel Esteban Páez Terán, suffered 14 gunshot wounds on Jan. 18, family attorneys said.”

Citing an autopsy commissioned by the family, attorney Brian Spears says: “Manuel was shot so many times and by different firearms that the tracks of the bullets running through the body converge and intersect. The autopsy identified 14 separate gunshot injuries.”

Spears adds: “The gunshot to the head would have killed them instantly but probably … not before they were able to raise their hands and arms in front of their body.”

Jeff Filipovits, another family attorney, says: “The police went to the forest that morning planning for violence.”

The video of the 35-minute media conference where the autopsy results were released to reporters can be seen here.


Kamau Franklin, the founder of the Atlanta-based organization Community Movement Builders, has explained: “The Atlanta Police Foundation, the Atlanta Police Department and the City of Atlanta plan to destroy nearly 100 acres of forest to erect a domestic version of a military base in the heart of a working-class Black community.”

“The plans for this ‘Cop City’ include military-grade training facilities, a mock city to practice urban warfare, explosives testing areas, dozens of shooting ranges and a Black Hawk helicopter landing pad. This police training facility for the Atlanta police is a prototype of militarized police centers in the country.”

He further notes: “The idea of ‘Cop City’ came after the uprisings in 2020 when the police-perpetrated murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and here in Atlanta, Rashad Brooks, began a new call for defunding and/or abolishing the police.”

For more, please see our articles: Weelaunee Forest defender Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran opposed to “Cop City” shot dead by Georgia police (January 20); Organizations denounce police killing of forest defender Tortuguita in Georgia, USA (January 27); Killing of land defender Tortuguita in the United States could draw attention to the role of police foundations in Canada (January 30); and “I never thought taking care of a park would be a dangerous thing” – Belkis Terán (February 12).

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