The mother of an activist fatally shot by law enforcement at the Atlanta Police Training Facility says she feels angry and powerless

The mother of an activist fatally shot by law enforcement at the Atlanta Police Training Facility says she feels angry and powerless



CNN

The mother of an activist who was shot dead by law enforcement in Atlanta earlier this week said she felt angry and powerless as protests over the shooting erupted on Saturday.

The activist – 26-year-old Manuel Esteban Paez Terán – was shot dead near a proposed $90 million, 85-acre law enforcement training facility where opponents had camped for months to stop construction.

On Wednesday morning, law enforcement officers conducted a clearing operation to “identify people who entered the area,” authorities said.

Officers spotted someone in a tent in the woods and issued verbal orders, but the person allegedly failed to comply and shot dead a Georgia State Patrol Trooper, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said in a news release.

The officers returned fire, fatally injuring the person identified as Terán. A handgun recovered from the person’s belongings matched the projectile from the soldier’s wound, the GBI said.

Terán’s mother, Belkis Terán, spoke to CNN by phone from Panamá Saturday night and expressed disbelief at law enforcement’s account of the incident.

“They said he had a gun. If he had one, it was to protect himself from the animals in the forest. I understand that,” she said.

“I never knew he had a gun,” the mother continued, adding that she didn’t think Terán was the guy who shoots at the police.

Activists linked to protests against the plant also denied the law enforcement account, calling Terán a “forest defender” committed to fighting environmental racism. They said Terán identified as non-binary and was a “sweet, warm, very smart and caring” person.

“He wasn’t a violent person. He was a pacifist. That’s what he kept telling me… He didn’t even kill an animal,” Terán’s mother said.

Terán did not raise any concerns about personal safety in the roughly six months he spent with other activists near the planned police training facility, the mother said.

“He didn’t think it would escalate. I would tell him to be careful, but he would tell me he was safe,” she said.

The mother says she now wants to come to the United States to help the activists who knew Terán.

“I want to get up. I want to raise his voice. I want to help conservationists find a way to stop Cop City. I don’t know if I can do it,” she said.

The Atlanta Police Foundation has said the planned training center – dubbed “Cop City” by its opponents – is needed to boost morale and recruiting efforts.

But the facility, which will include a shooting range, a mock town and a burning building, has met with fierce opposition, including Saturday’s protest.

Terán’s mother said she was saddened by the protests in downtown Atlanta, which saw six people arrested after businesses smashed their windows and a police cruiser burst into flames.

“I don’t think violence is going to do anything,” she said, telling protesters in Atlanta, “Don’t throw rocks. We must go together with candles.”

“I’m sorry for the people who are angry, but I don’t want to be angry my whole life,” the grieving mother said.

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