By Tyler Estep and Shaddi Abusaid
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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ATLANTA — The Atlanta Police Department released body camera footage Wednesday night from officers that responded to the aftermath of last month’s fatal shooting near the site of the city’s planned public safety training center.
Officials have said the Jan. 18 incident — in which activist Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran was killed after allegedly firing first at law enforcement officers — only directly involved Georgia state troopers. Troopers are generally not equipped with body cameras and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has said no footage of the actual shooting exists.
The overall operation that day, though, was a multijurisdictional effort that included APD, DeKalb County police and more. Activists and Teran’s family have called for any footage from any officers or other sources near the training center property that day to be released.
APD began doing that on Wednesday night, posting a link to videos it said showed footage from “from APD officers assigned to the … clearing detail who were nearby and responded to the shooting at the time it occurred.”
An APD spokesman said videos were being uploaded “on a rolling basis.” As of about 7:30 p.m., a total of four videos had been posted.
One roughly 40-minute video reviewed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution appeared to show a group of Atlanta police officers walking through the southern DeKalb County woods and removing tents, part of what authorities have called a “clearing operation” to remove protesters who had been camping in and around the training center site for more than a year.
“Think they’ll come back now?” one officer asks a colleague as he slashes the tent.
A second officer also appeared to confiscate a backpack and other belongings found inside.
As they scour the woods, an officer can be heard complaining to his colleagues about slipping in the mud. His jovial tone turned to one of concern when a barrage of gunfire echoed through the forest.
In the time-stamped body camera footage, the first four shots can be heard at 9:01 a.m. There is a brief pause before what sounds like multiple officers firing dozens of rounds in return.
“Is this target practice?” the officer asks as the group takes cover behind several trees. (There is an existing Atlanta police firing range where the new $90-million facility is planned.)
Several people can be heard shouting through the woods, though it’s unclear what they said.
The APD officers are told to stop moving and take cover, followed by what sounds like a command to make sure their body cameras are switched on.
The group then moves toward the direction of the gunshots until they come to a tent.
The APD officers stand with their guns aimed at the tent as what sounds like some kind of off-road vehicle approaches.
“We just need to hold until we can get them out. Get the officer out first,” one officer can be heard saying.
They move in on the tent, threatening to release a K-9 officer before shooting non-lethal rounds — and ultimately finding the tent to be unoccupied.
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