Gun Found in "Forest Defender" Death as 7 Others Charged with Domestic Terrorism During Insurrection


Officials have released a photo of a gun they say was used by a protester to shoot a Georgia State Patrol officer Wednesday in the ongoing battle over the construction of what protesters have termed a “Cop City” near Atlanta.

Officers returned fire and killed the protester, who was identified as Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, 26, according to a news release by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

The Georgia trooper had surgery that day to remove bullet fragments and remained hospitalized Friday night, according to WAGA-TV.

“Forensic ballistic analysis has confirmed that the projectile recovered from the trooper’s wound matches Teran’s handgun,” the GBI statement said. They described the gun as a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm weapon.

Seven people were arrested Wednesday and charged with domestic terrorism and criminal trespass, “with additional charges pending,” according to the agency.

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The GBI identified those seven as Geoffrey Parsons, 20, of Maryland; Spencer Bernard Liberto, 29, of Pennsylvania; Matthew Macar, 30, of Pennsylvania; Timothy Murphy, 25, of Maine; Christopher Reynolds, 31, of Ohio; Teresa Shen, 31, of New York and Sarah Wasilewski, 35, of Pennsylvania.

The GBI said the intent of the effort “was to identify people who are trespassing and committing other crimes on the property,” but WAGA described the action as “a task force assigned to sweep and clear the woods.”

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Multiple law enforcement agencies took part in the effort, which began Tuesday at the site of the future Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, according to the GBI release.

“Approximately 25 campsites were located and removed,” the agency reported.

“Additionally, mortar style fireworks, multiple edged weapons, pellet rifles, gas masks, and a blow torch were recovered.”

The violence broke out Wednesday morning, when law enforcement officers were trying to get a man out of a tent, according to WAGA-TV.

Michael Register, director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, said the confrontation escalated when one of the protesters shot one of the officers.

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“An individual, without warning, shot a Georgia State Patrol trooper,” Register said. “Other law enforcement personnel returned fire in self-defense and evacuated the trooper to a safe area. The individual who fired upon law enforcement and shot the trooper was killed in the exchange of gunfire.”

Officials have said that multiple groups are taking part in the protest, including Defend the Atlanta Forest, which declared Saturday a day of mourning for Teran, whom they dubbed “a forest defender.”

For months, the groups have camped out in the area and built platforms in trees to occupy and delay efforts to construct the $90 million training center, which WAGA said is slated to include a shooting range, classrooms, a mock village, an emergency vehicle driving course, stables for police horses, and a “burn building” for firefighters to practice putting out fires.

Some protesters have complained that the construction “involves cutting down so many trees that it would be environmentally damaging,” WAGA reported.

“They also oppose investing so much money in what they call ‘Cop City,’ which they say will be used to practice ‘urban warfare.'”

After a group claimed to have set fire to an Oregon bank on Dec. 31 “as an act of solidarity” with the Atlanta demonstrators, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp vowed “to bring the full force of state and local law enforcement down on those trying to bring about a radical agenda through violent means.”

“Domestic terrorism will NOT be tolerated in our state, and we will not hesitate, we will not rest, we will not waver in ending their activities and prosecuting them to the fullest extent of the law,” Kemp said.

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Lorri Wickenhauser has worked at news organizations in California and Arizona. She joined The Western Journal in 2021.
Lorri Wickenhauser has worked at news organizations in California and Arizona. She joined The Western Journal in 2021.