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Body camera footage released from 'Cop City' protest shooting

“Is this target practice?” someone can be heard saying in body cam footage released in relation to the deadly shooting of an activist in Atlanta.
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Police in Atlanta on Wednesday released body-camera video related to the Jan. 18 fatal shooting of an activist who was camped out to protest the building of a law enforcement training facility. 

Two hours of footage showing law enforcement officers in Atlanta’s South River Forest were made public, but they do not show the moment that a nonbinary activist known as “Tortuguita” was shot by Georgia state troopers. 

The footage came from body cameras worn by officers who were patrolling the forest but who were not in the immediate area of the shooting. In addition to Tortuguita being killed, a state trooper was also wounded. In one video, a person can be heard saying, “Man, you f—-- your own officer up.” 

Last month, Mike Register, director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, said the activist had opened fire and that officers returned fire, resulting in the activist’s death. The GBI also said that ballistic analysis showed that the bullet fired at the officer matched the handgun owned by Tortuguita.

Other activists have asserted, however, that Tortuguita did not shoot at the officers but that the officer was inadvertently shot by another officer. Protesters with Defend the Atlanta Forest have  said that its sources on the ground heard multiple continuous “rapid fire” shots, not an exchange of gunfire. 

The GBI dismissed activists’ assertions in a statement to NBC News on Thursday. “In those videos, at least one statement exists where an officer speculates that the Trooper was shot by another officer in crossfire. Speculation is not evidence,” the bureau said. “Our investigation does not support that statement.”

Before the gunshots can be heard, officers in one video are shown on patrol in the forest, examining and cutting down tents. Moments later, about 14 seconds of rapid gunfire can be heard in the distance. Shortly afterward, a person can be heard asking, “Is this target practice?” 

Tortuguita and others were camped out on the grounds of the planned site of a large law enforcement training facility. Local activists have been protesting the site since it was first announced in 2021. Known as “Cop City,” the $90 million, 85-acre site will include a shooting range and a “mock city” where law enforcement can conduct burn building and “urban police” training. 

Tortuguita, 26, was an environmental activist who was camped out in Atlanta’s South River Forest, where the facility is being built. It was the first known instance in the U.S. in which a police officer killed a demonstrator involved in an environmental movement.

On Monday, the GBI said in a statement it would hand over the findings from its own internal investigation of the shooting to a special prosecutor once the bureau completed key interviews.