Seven people have been arrested and charged with domestic terrorism following the fatal shooting of a person and a Georgia State Police officer near a proposed police training facility in Atlanta, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Opponents of the project — a planned $90 million, 85-acre facility that activists have dubbed a “police city” — have camped out in the forest for months trying to block construction. GBI Director Mike Register said there was an exchange of fire when law enforcement began removing people from the area Wednesday morning.
Law enforcement and opponents of the project gave varying details on what happened, with The Register saying law enforcement officers “fired back in self-defense” after someone “shot and killed a Georgia State Patrol without warning.”
“People who fired at law enforcement officers and shot police officers died in the crossfire,” Rest said.
In a later press release, the GBI said officials “found a man in a tent in the woods” around 9 a.m.
“Officers gave verbal orders to the man who disobeyed and shot the Georgia State Patrolman. Other law enforcement officers returned fire, hitting the man. Law enforcement evacuated the Mounties to a safe area,” said the updated release.
Kei Diliza, a resident of nearby Gresham Park and affiliated with the local movement Stop Cop City, told CNN on Wednesday that reports from other members near the site Contradicts what law enforcement has said about protesters shooting at them.
In an emailed statement to CNN, Stop Cop City said Wednesday’s enforcement operation allegedly began with “numerous armed police officers closing down a public road and pointing their guns at a park.”
“For months, community members have been demanding that the police stop their brutality against forest protectors. Just Monday, more than a hundred neighbors and organizers gathered at the DeKalb County Courthouse to demand that the police stop the campaign to stop the police city, ’ said the statement.
During the cleanup operation, about 25 campsites were removed from the site, the agency said in a release. Weapons including “mortar-style fireworks, multi-bladed weapons, pellet rifles, gas masks and blowtorches” were recovered.
All seven people arrested were from states other than Georgia.
The proposed facility has seen violence in the past. Five people were arrested and charged with domestic terrorism last year after activists and protesters clashed over the site’s development.
In May, eight protesters were arrested after authorities tried to drive them out of the area, throwing Molotov cocktails at police, CNN affiliate WSB reported. Last month, five people were arrested and charged with domestic terrorism after police tried to remove a barricade at the entrance to the area.
The Atlanta Police Foundation said the center was needed to help boost morale and recruiting efforts, and the facility previously used by law enforcement was substandard.
The facility will include a shooting range, simulated cities and burning buildings.
A community invested in rare secret developments.
At a news conference on Wednesday, the Register said a “new center for training police officers to engage effectively in the community is a good thing for the community” amid the national discussion about reforming the police force.
The person who died on Wednesday was identified as 26-year-old Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, according to the GBI.
Activists linked to groups protesting the site described Tran as a “champion of the forest” dedicated to fighting environmental racism. Local justice groups released a joint statement calling Tran, known as Tortuguita, who identifies as non-binary, a “lovable, warm, very intelligent and caring” individual.
According to the release, the man died at the scene. The GBI said a handgun and ammunition casings were recovered from the scene.
The wounded soldier was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital for treatment and was in stable condition Thursday, according to the Georgia Department of Public Safety.