In Atlanta, police seeking to secure the construction of a massive training facility known as Cop City have escalated dramatically since December, murdering one activist and charging 42 more with domestic terrorism. In the three months since the killing of Tortuguita, the authorities have delayed the release of evidence that contradicts their narrative, hoping to destroy the forest before a public reckoning can take place—so that by the time the truth comes out, Cop City and the future it is intended to impose will be a fait accompli.
Here, we use the autopsy of the Dekalb County Medical Examiner to debunk the police narrative about the events of January 18 and explore what the police stand to gain from lying to us.
On April 19, fully three months after the police murdered Manuel Paez Teran—known in Weelaunee forest as Tortuguita—the Dekalb County Medical Examiner finally released the results of the autopsy conducted at 8 am on the morning of January 19. At last, it is plain for all to see how little evidence there is that Tortuguita shot at the officers, despite the allegations of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
According to the Dekalb County autopsy,
The fingernails are closely trimmed and intact. Gunpowder residue is not seen on the hands. A GSR kit [gunshot residue kit] is performed.
Gunshot residue tests are held to be reliable indicators of whether a person has fired a gun, scientifically and legally speaking. Gunshot residue can wear off over a period of four to six hours, but as mentioned in the autopsy, Tortuguita’s hands were bagged shortly after the murder, in order that if there was any gunshot residue on their hands, it would be preserved. According to the “Investigator Narrative” included in the autopsy, the official who prepared that narrative reported to the scene of the murder within two and a half hours and “covered the hands with white handbags to preserve any trace evidence.”
We can be sure that Atlanta authorities missed no opportunity to secure and publicize any evidence that could corroborate their narrative that Tortuguita shot first. Instead, because the autopsy showed that Tortuguita did not fire a gun at all, the results of the Dekalb County autopsy were suppressed for months.
Is it possible that Tortuguita somehow fired a gun while wearing gloves, or fired a gun and then cleaned their hands? According to the Dekalb County autopsy, Tortuguita experienced at least 57 gunshot wounds; this video shows that all of the gunfire occurred in less than eleven seconds.
That means that Tortuguita died within a few seconds of the first shot, whoever fired it. In the instants between the first couple shots and their death, there was no time for Tortuguita to remove and conceal gloves, nor to clean gunshot residue off their hands.
To all that evidence, we must add the findings of the second autopsy, the one that Tortuguita’s family commissioned, which found that Tortuguita was “likely sitting cross-legged with their hands up” when they were killed. This is consistent with the gunshot wounds described in the autopsy conducted by the Dekalb County Medical Examiner:
• Right Forearm and Hand—fractures of the index finger and thumb metacarpal. […]
• Left Forearm and Hand—fracture of the middle finger proximal phalange.