After a local Michigan police agency released bodycam footage of officers shooting a 20-year-old man, the community responds with outrage. As the conversation continues about excessive force, officials question how to police effectively while “building public trust” and “engaging in tough conversations.”
On Thursday, April 28, the East Lansing Police Oversight Commission voted unanimously to demand that the police department release bodycam video of the Monday, April 25 shooting of an allegedly armed suspect in a grocery store parking lot. The department released the footage by the set deadline, Thursday, May 5.
Someone reported seeing a man, later identified as DeAnothny VanAtten, in a face mask entering the Lake Lansing Meijer grocery store with a firearm. The Lansing State Journal newspaper describes the call:
Dispatchers relayed the following information to officers: “I have a caller that advised for a 20-year-old Black male, he was wearing a yellow and black jacket with a mask covering his whole face except his eyes, pulled a gun out of his car and went inside the store, caller’s advising that the accused walked in through the grocery side,” according to police scanner archives. “He’s not threatening anybody with it, just walked inside the store.”
The ELPD chief said she released the partial video in the spirit of transparency. In a press release, the force’s communication arm states, “The video footage released captures the events leading up to the shooting, the shooting itself, and the events immediately after the shooting. The source videos include body-worn camera footage and Meijer security camera footage. Some of the video footage (faces, license plates, and identifying information) has been redacted/blurred to ensure privacy.”
Police Chief Kim Johnson said, “Building public trust means remaining present in challenging times, engaging in tough conversations, and being as transparent as possible with our community members.”
Many are looking past the release of the video and questioning the intention of the shooting, believing transparency, in this case, lies in the “tough conversation” of why VanAtten was shot instead of the many other tools the force says it has at its disposal.
Parish Hickman is one.
He was also at the shopping center at the time of the incident, “They were quick to shoot,” he stated. “Where did they see the gun at? He didn’t up that [expletive] or nothing. So why did they just shoot him that quick? He was just trying to run.”
Hickman said he believed VanAtten ran from the police, like many Black people do, out of “fear.” He said, “You Black, and you got a gun? That’s not about to go well.”
In the video, an unidentified officer can be heard yelling to VanAtten, “You’re going to get Tased,” and asking him to stop.
Another officer warns, “He’s reaching. He’s reaching. He’s got a gun.”
One of the cops shot two rounds. Another cop shot several more at VanAtten as he darted between parked cars and an open area until the Black man fell and said, “You just shot me two times, bro,” when the officers reached him.
Approximately eight gunshots were let off, apparently fired from multiple guns. The young man was shot once in his right leg and once in the abdomen. Video shows the officers immediately assisting the wounded suspect before he was rushed to the hospital.
A woman in a yellow sweatshirt was near a silver SUV where VanAtten was shot on the ground, and cried out to the officers and said on camera, “Do not shoot him. He does not have a f##king gun. Get your gun off of him.”
Despite video footage from the roof of the parking lot showing they were in the car together, she says in the video she did not know him.
She screeched, with an infant’s carrier peeking out of the car door, “My baby is right here.”
When she went with the child to check to see if the man was OK, after calling someone on the phone, video shows they assume she is with VanAtten and checked her for the missing gun.
She denies having the gun and continues to scream in several videos, “He didn’t have no gun. You shot him for no reason.”
In a separate video, officers can be heard discussing the chase and how to tend to VanAtten, when one declares what he said he saw, “He had it out.”
Cops discovered a silver handgun beneath a car parked two parking spots away from where they claimed VanAtten was parked. Further test results are pending to determine the owner of the weapon.
Some community stakeholders like Kerrington Kelsey, a leader in the Black Lives Matter Lansing chapter, questioned the edit, saying, “There was no proof whether that gun that was found on the scene was DeAnthony’s. Whether he even had it in the Meijer, to begin with. Oh wait, that footage — what happened in the Meijer — did not make it to this cut.”
Another BLM leader offered further insights, “He went into that store to buy corn and macaroni for a cookout. He left his girlfriend and her eight-month-old baby in the car and said, ‘I’ll be right back’ and, somewhere between that conversation and walking into Meijer, going and getting those items and checking out, he never made it home.”
Upon his release from the hospital, VanAtten was transferred to the Ingham County Jail. He has already been released from custody.
In addition to not releasing the full video, ELPD is keeping the shooting officer’s name private.
Mike Nichols, who is representing the officer, said he was “glad that the body-worn cameras and the footage is out there. It confirms for me what I’ve believed — that is that the officers acted reasonably and appropriately.”
East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas wants cooler heads to prevail without anyone rushing to judgment about the shooting as the investigation continues.
“We want to reassure our community that we are listening,” he stated. “We are committed to doing the right things in terms of process to ensure that we get the answers that are needed, make decisions accordingly and, ultimately, move forward as a community.”