Habersham County District Attorney to take over ‘Cop City’ shooting investigation

Published: Apr. 20, 2023 at 6:52 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - – George Christian, the Habersham County District Attorney, is tasked with determining if any officers face criminal charges from the January shooting at the planned public safety training center.

On January 18, during an operation to clear the grounds of camping activists, Manuel Teran was shot and killed by state troopers.

State officials have stressed since the hours after the shooting that Teran first fired on officers before they returned fire in self-defense.

On Wednesday, a DeKalb County autopsy revealed that Teran’s body had 57 gunshot wounds.

“They’re devastated by the loss of their child,” said Jeff Filipovits, the attorney representing the family of Teran.

“They’re confused by the reaction of law enforcement and the limited information that has been provided to them,” Filipovits said.

The county pathologist also found that Teran’s hand did not have any gunshot residue.

Filipovits said that did not necessarily mean Teran did not fire a weapon.

“The fact that there was no gunshot residue, as much I would love to stand here and say that’s indicative that Manuel did not have a gun or did not fire a gun, that’s just not what the science is,” said Filipovits.

Atlanta News First was able to talk with D.A. Christian on Thursday evening.

Christian said he received a notice from the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council on March 8 indicating that he had been appointed as District Attorney pro-tempore for this case.

A spokesperson for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said they completed their investigation of the shooting on Friday, April 14.

Christian said he has received the case file from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

“I’ll look at it, make a determination. A grand jury could be used, is not required. I don’t know going forward what will happen. I have to look at the evidence in the GBI reports before I make any kind of decision,” said Christian.

In late January, DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston recused herself from the case as the DA’s Office was among the task force that conducted the clearing operation at the site on January 18.

Christian said he will meet with the GBI for a preliminary meeting next week as he starts to review the case.

Christian said he will not be impacted by the public attention to the case.

When asked if the lack of body camera footage could impact his review of the case, Christian said he has not been keeping up with the latest news from this incident but will review all evidence provided.

“You have to look at the evidence and make a decision on that, and solely that, and that’s what I’ll do in this case,” said Christian.

Christian will review the autopsy report included in the GBI’s case.

A spokesperson for the GBI said that the autopsy report will be the one conducted by DeKalb County, and released to media outlets on Wednesday.

On Thursday, in light of the autopsy report, Atlanta City Councilmember Liliana Bakhtiari called on the U.S. Department of Justice to open an independent investigation.

“Because GBI should not be leading this investigation. GBI has no place in being a part of this investigation. They led this multi-jurisdictional sweep and they are complicit in the homicide,” said Bakhtiari, in an interview with Atlanta News First.

Teran’s family would like the initial interviews with officers involved in the shooting to be released to the public.