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‘Stop Cop City’ protestor who shot at Atlanta LEOs kept journals with violent, anti-police rhetoric

The Georgia Attorney General’s Office is seeking to introduce the diary as evidence in the RICO case against a large group of protestors


A photo Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran is hed during an Atlanta City Council meeting on Monday, April 17, 2023. Teran was shot and killed in January by a Georgia State Patrol trooper while protesting the construction of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center. (Natrice Miller/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Natrice Miller/TNS

By Jozsef Papp
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ATLANTA — The personal diary of Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran, an activist who died after exchanging fire with police near the site of the planned public safety training center, was filled with phrases such as “Cop cars love being on fire;” “Prisons were built to be burnt down,” “Burn police vehicles” and “Kill cops.”

The Georgia Attorney General’s Office is seeking to introduce the diary as evidence in the RICO case involving 61 protesters.

“These statements are a glimpse into the mind of a ‘Forest Defender’ and the attitudes kept by Teran and his co-conspirators,” reads the motion, filed Nov. 15. “He writes about the forest and his desire to stop the construction of the training center as well as his contempt and hatred for police.”

Teran’s family and friends have described the activist as peaceful, loving and helpful.

It is unclear when Judge Kimberly Esmond Adams might hear the motion but prosecutors are asking for a pre-trial ruling. In a hearing earlier this month, Adams ordered all discovery to be shared by the end of the year, all motions filed by March 15, 2024 and final pleas expected by the end of June.

Adams told defendants that she won’t accept negotiated pleas after June 30, 2024.

Teran was camping in the DeKalb County woods when a clearing operation took place on the morning of Jan. 18. During the operation, which included various local and state agencies including the Georgia State Patrol, troopers encountered Teran’s tent.

After being told to exit the tent and failing to do so, troopers shot “non-lethal” pepper balls into the tent to try to force Teran out.

According to investigators, Teran shot first and wounded a trooper in the stomach, before officers returned fire. The family has questioned that account. An independent autopsy, requested by the family, showed Teran was shot by police at least 13 times.

No criminal charges were filed against the Georgia State Patrol troopers involved in the fatal shooting, a special prosecutor assigned to the case announced last month.

While processing the scene, GBI agents were able to collect numerous pieces of evidence including Teran’s gun, a tent, shell casings from the fired rounds and the diary, according to the motion.

Prosecutors are arguing that Teran’s diary is non-testimonial and rules of hearsay should apply. According to the motion, Teran’s diary entries were not created with the primary purpose of creating evidence against the defendants; rather they were Teran’s personal writings.

The diary contains a variety of drawings, notes and personal writings with some consisting of anti-police rhetoric. One drawing shows a police vehicle in flames with “Burn police vehicles!” and “Kill cops!” written around the drawing.

Another drawing shows a police car on fire with the words, “Cop cars love being on fire.” A drawing shows a “Sheriff” building in flames with the words, “Burn down police stations! It’s fun and good!”

One entry is titled, “Killing cops is okay.” A separate entry states, “if the cops kill me, I want you to riot, burn down their stations and set their cars alight.”

“He writes about the forest and his desire to stop the construction of the training center as well as his contempt and hatred for police,” the motion states. “At times, Teran is angry and emotional at police, society, corporations and many other perceived “repressors,” and this sort of mindset renders his writings admissible as a hearsay exception.”

According to the motion, prosecutors allege Teran was a co-conspirator with the 61 defendants indicted on RICO charges since he was occupying the forest.

Writings in Teran’s diary corroborate the fact he was a part of the Defend the Atlanta Forest group, list crimes that should be committed and coordinated meetings to stop the construction of the training center, according to the motion.

In a statement earlier this year, Teran’s mother, Belkis Teran, described her son as peaceful.

“Manny was a kind person who helped anyone who needed it. He was a pacifist,” Teran said in a press release in February. “They say he shot a police officer. I do not believe it. I do not understand why they will not even privately explain to us what happened to our child.”

Prosecutors claim Defend the Atlanta Forest is an Atlanta-based organization that they say is an “anti-government, anti-police, and anti-corporate extremist organization,” with the purpose of occupying parts or all of the 381 forested acres in DeKalb County owned by the city of Atlanta and leased to the Atlanta Police Foundation with the goal of halting the training center construction.

In the motion, prosecutors claim Teran was a member of the Defend the Atlanta Forest group, due to the group claiming Teran as “one of their own” and admitting Teran was a “Forest Defender” on various social media posts. Teran’s death has been used as a rallying cry for many protests of the facility, with chants of “Viva, Viva Tortuguita!” being common during protests.

“Given that Teran was part of the conspiracy to occupy the forest and part of the overall Defend the Atlanta Forest movement, the writings in his diary are admissible as statements of a co-conspirator,” the motion reads.

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