By SARAH RANKIN, Associated Press
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Body-camera video released Friday of the fatal police shooting of a Virginia man shows him emerge naked from a car and dash onto a highway, where he flails erratically before running toward the officer while shouting threats.
Richmond police Chief Alfred Durham asked the community for patience as the May 14 fatal shooting of Marcus-David Peters, a 24-year-old unarmed Black man, along a busy stretch of Interstate 95 remains under investigation.
“Let the investigation take its course, please,” Durham said.
Peters’ family, meanwhile, said the video shows he needed help, and they asked why the officer didn’t use other non lethal force after trying a stun gun instead of shooting him.
The confrontation began after an officer observed Peters hit another vehicle with his sedan and flee, according to police. The body-camera video picks up with Peters’ car in a brush-filled area next to an interstate ramp.
The officer, whom police have identified as Michael Nyantakyi, a 10-year veteran of the force who is also Black, is seen with his handgun trained on the vehicle as he first approaches and orders Peters to stay in the car.
“Male seems to be mentally unstable as we speak,” Nyantakyi can be heard saying.
Peters exits the vehicle and dashes onto the interstate filled with rush-hour traffic, where a vehicle strikes him, the video shows. Peters then lies down in the roadway, rolling back and forth and swinging his limbs.
Peters’ sister, Princess Blanding, said Friday that the behavior the video depicted was totally out of character for her brother, a teacher who graduated with honors from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2016.
As Peters flails in the roadway, Nyantakyi can be seen standing a short distance away with a stun gun drawn.
“I figured it out. I’m living the dream,” Peters says as he stands and begins approaching the officer, slowly at first.
He curses at the officer and tells him, “Put that Taser down or I’ll kill you.”
Nyantakyi fires the stun gun and tells Peters to back up as Peters continues to advance. Peters then runs toward the officer, and the video becomes shaky and more difficult to see. Two gunshots are heard.
The police chief played the video in slow motion for reporters and narrated as it ran. Nyantakyi shot Peters twice in the abdomen after deploying the stun gun, only one prong of which attached, Durham said.
Durham said Friday that they are investigating whether the stun gun was effective at all.
Peters stumbles and then walks away after being shot. The video shows him on the ground a short distance away soon afterward. He died later at a hospital.
Durham also played surveillance video from just before the shooting that shows Peters drive up to a luxury downtown hotel where he worked part time as security guard and walk inside. Peters is clothed when he arrives but takes off his shirt in the hotel’s lobby, dropping it on the ground.
He then proceeds into what Durham identified as the hotel’s security office and has a conversation with someone mostly out of sight. The video had no sound, and Durham declined to answer questions about what took place at the hotel.
Peters then leaves the hotel, appearing to be naked by the time he returns to his car, and drives away. Police say he was involved in three hit-and-runs before the encounter with Nyantakyi.
Peters’ autopsy has not yet been completed, according to the medical examiner’s office in Richmond. A toxicology report also will be completed.
The officer remains on paid administrative leave while the investigation continues, Durham said.
When the investigation is complete, police will forward the findings to the commonwealth’s attorney’s office, which will determine if the use of force was justified.
Friday marked the first time the police department has released body camera footage of a shooting by an officer while an investigation was ongoing, spokesman Gene Lepley said.
The chief emphasized that he was trying to be transparent and said he understood the impact the incident has had on Peters’ family and the community.
“We want a fair and thorough investigation,” Durham said, his voice rising. “Do not pass judgment. If you do, shame on you.”
Blanding, who spoke after the chief’s press conference, said Durham had portrayed the officer’s actions as reasonable.
“Nothing justifies Marcus not being here,” she said.
Blanding previously told The Associated Press that her brother had no known mental health issues.
“I cannot diagnose my brother, as he’s not here to be diagnosed,” she said Friday. “However, he was clearly in distress and in need of help, and the help was not rendered.”
Associated Press writer Alan Suderman contributed to this report.