The mother of an activist who was killed by law enforcement in Atlanta earlier this week said she felt angry and helpless as protests over the shooting erupted Saturday.
Watch video from the “Cop City” protest scene in Atlanta
The activist — 26-year-old Manuel Esteban Paez Teran — was shot near a $90 million law enforcement training facility where opponents had camped for months trying to stop its construction.
Authorities said law enforcement officials were conducting a clean-up operation on Wednesday morning “to identify people who have trespassed in the area.”
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said in a news release that officers spotted a person in a tent in the woods and gave verbal orders, but the person allegedly did not comply and fired at a Georgia State Police trooper.
The officers returned fire and fatally wounded the person identified as Tiran. The GBI said a gun recovered from the individual’s possession matched a shell from the soldier’s wound.
Teran’s mother, Bilqis Teran, spoke to CNN by phone from Panama Saturday night, expressing her disbelief in law enforcement’s account of the incident.
They said he had a gun. If he had one, it was in order to protect himself from the animals in the jungle. She said that’s what I understand.
“I didn’t know he had a gun,” the mother continued, adding that she didn’t think Teran was the type to shoot law enforcement.
Activists associated with the protest against the facility have also disputed law enforcement’s account, calling Teran a “forest advocate” working to combat environmental racism. They said Teran identified as non-binary and was a “nice, warm, very intelligent, and caring” person.
He was not a violent person. He was a pacifist. Teran’s mother said he was telling me the whole time… he wouldn’t even kill an animal.
The mother said that Tiran raised no concerns about personal safety over the six months he spent with other activists near the proposed police training facility.
Didn’t think it would escalate. I’d tell him to be careful, but he’ll tell me he’s safe.”
The mother says she now wants to come to the United States to help the activists who know Tiran.
“I want to stand up. I want to speak up. I want to help conservationists find a way to stop Cop City. I don’t know if I can do that,” she said.
The Atlanta Police Foundation said the planned training center — dubbed “Cop City” by its opponents — is necessary to help boost morale and recruit efforts.
But the facility, which will include a shooting range, a mock city and a burning building, has met fierce resistance, including a protest on Saturday.
Teran’s mother said she was saddened to hear about the protest in downtown Atlanta, where six people were arrested after businesses suffered damage to their windows and a police cruiser was caught in flames.
She told Atlanta protesters, “I don’t think violence will do anything. Don’t throw rocks. We need to march with candles.”
“I’m sorry for angry people,” said the grieving mother, “but I don’t want to be angry all my life.”