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National and local civil rights attorneys may represent family of protester killed by police

Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, better known as Tortuguita, in a photo issued by the Stop Cop City ATL movement.

By John Ruch

National and local civil rights attorneys are discussing possible representation of the family of the Atlanta public safety training center protester killed by police, according to the Oregon-based Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC).

Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, 26, who called themself Tortuguita, was killed during a Jan. 18 raid of the training center site, allegedly after shooting a state trooper.

The CLDC provides legal support and advice to nationwide activists and has been “heavily involved with Atlanta forest defense since early 2020,” according to Executive Director Lauren C. Regan.

“Our organization sues cops regularly and we’ll be involved in the case for Manuel’s family as well,” she said, adding that CLDC is coordinating with various local attorneys.

One of those attorneys in preliminary discussions, but not yet hired by anyone, is Drago Cepar Jr. Cepar currently represents or advises dozens of activists and at least two journalists in allegedly unconstitutional arrests related to the “Defend the Atlanta Forest” movement. “I might be part of it. I might not be,” said Cepar of what he understands to be a possible team of lawyers for Tortuguita’s family.

Regan said that while a lawsuit is a possibility, the immediate priority for the family would be securing an independent autopsy and issuing notices to every police officer involved to preserve personal evidence like clothing and cell phones. “Evidence goes away really fast,” she said.

She called several aspects of the police story suspicious, including why officers would go into such a situation without body cameras, and said one of her regular forensic experts suggested that Tortuguita may have attempted to commit suicide and was met with panicked police gunfire. She said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation needs “an independent investigation from outside, including some civilian monitors or a civil rights organization.”

The GBI said on Jan. 20 that a handgun allegedly used by Tortuguita matched the bullet that wounded the trooper.

The CLDC has represented activists involved in such major national hot spots as the Dakota Access Pipeline protests near the Standing Rock Native American reservation. Regan said the training center controversy, rapidly escalating to that national level of prominence, fits into the same big picture of political forces.

“I’ve been doing this for 25 years now, and more and more we see the state – meaning government – colluding with corporations and big profiteers, and when they do that, you will often see state repression spike recurrently,” she said. “And state repression includes legislation like the domestic terrorism statute that was passed. It includes excessive charges…It includes deadly force and violence. All intended to derail a campaign that is winning and to chill the Constitutional rights of people to …engage in political activity.”

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4 Comments

  1. Byron January 24, 2023 2:48 pm

    The gun used to shoot a trooper during last week’s deadly encounter near Atlanta’s planned public safety training center was purchased by Manuel Teran, the protester who was then killed when authorities returned fire, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Monday.

    https://www.ajc.com/neighborhoods/dekalb/gbi-gun-tied-to-trooper-shooting-purchased-by-protester-who-was-killed/RN4XAS6E2BDZ5IWNVUNF3MPTAM/Report

    Reply
  2. Byron Atlata January 24, 2023 2:48 pm

    The gun used to shoot a trooper during last week’s deadly encounter near Atlanta’s planned public safety training center was purchased by Manuel Teran, the protester who was then killed when authorities returned fire, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Monday.

    https://www.ajc.com/neighborhoods/dekalb/gbi-gun-tied-to-trooper-shooting-purchased-by-protester-who-was-killed/RN4XAS6E2BDZ5IWNVUNF3MPTAM/Report

    Reply
  3. Fatima Quintelle January 24, 2023 3:25 pm

    Toetuguita Atlanta GAReport

    Reply
  4. NN January 27, 2023 6:49 am

    He shouldn’t have fired on Law Enforcement, He shouldn’t have been in GA in the first place, Hell, he SHOULDN’T have been in the States

    NOTHING OF VALUE WAS LOST WHEN THIS ANTIFA PUKE WENT SENT 6′ UNDER

    FAFOReport

    Reply

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