ATLANTA — The family of Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, the activist killed by Georgia State Patrol soldiers in January during a clearing operation at the site of Atlanta’s proposed Public Safety Training Center, on Monday released a private autopsy conducted, after the DeKalb County coroner conducted the first examination for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
The family’s autopsy was limited as Teran’s body had been extensively dissected during the initial examination to recover gunshot fragments from the 14 gunshot wounds.
The Teran family autopsy was performed by Dr. Kris L. Sperry, the former GBI Chief Medical Examiner, who abruptly retired in 2015 after an Atlanta Journal Constitution investigation found he had claimed hundreds of hours of work at the GBI when he was actually working for clients of his forensic consulting firm . The AJC found that Sperry had taken on more than 500 cases as a paid forensic expert and that his undeclared work had created conflicts of interest and undermined his scientific and medical judgment.
The Sperry AJC investigation examined court records, statements and trial transcripts from more than five dozen of his private cases. Lawyers and other opponents repeatedly accused Sperry of tailoring the conclusions to his paying customers.
Sperry did not attend Monday’s news conference, and family attorneys did not immediately respond to calls from the AJC asking if they were concerned about the doctor’s past.
Sperry’s autopsy of Teran revealed that the 23-year-old was injured by both handguns and a shotgun. A fatal wound to the head likely occurred at the end of the salvo, Sperry reported, because she would have been incapacitated. Other wounds could have been fatal but not immediately debilitating, the report said.
“At some point during the shooting, the deceased was able to raise his hands and arms up and in front of his body, with his palms facing his torso,” the autopsy said.
While the autopsy indicates Teran’s hands were raised, it’s not clear when or how high they were raised. The autopsy does not rule out whether his hands were raised above his head in a position of surrender or whether his hands were in a lower, defensive position after the shot.
Sperry’s account also states that Teran sat, probably cross-legged, while he was shot. The report notes that Teran’s tibia and fibula were fractured on his left leg. According to the report, the large gunshot flaw found on his left leg “is consistent with being caused by a shotgun.”
GBI officials said Teran fired first, wounding a soldier in the stomach before officers returned fire. The family has questioned this account.
“It is impossible to determine whether the deceased was holding a firearm or not, either before being shot or while being shot multiple times,” Sperry’s autopsy report said.
During Monday’s press conference, lawyers for the family said the second autopsy did not provide the answers they were looking for.
“You’re not going to find the answers you want in this autopsy,” attorney Jeff Filipovits said. “It’s not enough for us to work backwards to find out what happened.”
Filipovits said the only people who know what happened are the officers who were in the woods on the day of the January 18 shooting and the GBI officers who are investigating.
Teran’s family said they wanted answers, attorney Brian Spears said.
“We still don’t know what happened in the woods on the morning of January 18,” Spears said. “The second autopsy is a snapshot of what happened, but it’s not the whole story. What we want is simple: GBI meets with the family and releases the investigation report.”
The family has sued the city of Atlanta under the Georgia Open Records Act, alleging that Atlanta police had no good reason to withhold body camera footage of their officers in the woods on the day of the shooting.
Attached as evidence to this lawsuit are letters from Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr’s office and the GBI, urging the city to withhold further video release.
“It is not uncommon for a local law enforcement agency to have evidence (such as video or documents) that another law enforcement agency is using in an investigation,” Senior Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Colangelo wrote to Atlanta District Attorney Nina Hickson on March 2. February. 14. “Local authorities will withhold the evidence in their possession… until all authorities involved have completed their investigations and the prosecution is complete.”
“Similarly, GBI performs chemical analyzes of blood or other substances it receives from local law enforcement agencies and sends the results back to those agencies for use in their investigations and/or prosecutions. The GBI will not release its own copies of these scientific findings until the local authority has completed its investigation and resulting prosecution is complete.”
Some body camera footage of officers at the scene was released by APD on February 8, and no further video has been released since. The videos do not show the shooting incident.
In a statement Friday, the GBI said it had asked for the release of further video footage to be halted to “prevent inappropriate release of evidence,” to preserve the integrity of the investigation, and to ensure “it does not distort the facts of the incident.” become”. a statement.
The lawsuit asks the court to rule that the City of Atlanta violated the Open Records Act and must release the requested records.
Belkis Teran said her son is a caring person and popular with family members. Teran’s brother, Daniel Paez, said he received messages from people telling him his brother got what he deserved.
“In Atlanta, I feel hated. The current narrative is that despite my 10 years of military service, my voice is less valued because I’m out of state,” Paez said. “It’s ironic, I’m trusted with nuclear secrets, but I’m not trusted with the evidence of my sibling’s murder.”