No charges for East Lansing Police Department in Meijer shooting

No charges issued for East Lansing Police Department in Meijer shooting
Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 12:00 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 24, 2022 at 6:44 PM EDT
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correction: An earlier quote regarding the Police Oversight Committee was attributed to the East Lansing Police Department. It was actually said by the Capitol City Labor Program, a labor union representing police officers in Clinton, Eaton, Ingham and Jackson counties.

EAST LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Neither of the officers who shot DeAnthony VanAtten in a grocery store parking lot will face charges, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Wednesday.

Nessel said the Department of Attorney General will not seek charges against two East Lansing Police Department (ELPD) officers for their role in a shooting that took place on April 25, in the parking lot of a Meijer located on Lake Lansing Road in East Lansing.

Background: Man shot by East Lansing police at Lake Lansing Meijer charged with 7 felonies

According to police, multiple officers were sent to the Meijer on calls about a man, later identified as DeAnthony VanAtten, running inside with a visible gun on his person.

VanAtten was running away at the time he was shot. East Lansing Police were criticized for shooting a fleeing man and then again for being slow to release footage of the incident. However, a video of the encounter between VanAtten and law enforcement was eventually released to the public.

After a review of the evidence Attorney General Nessel said her department will not seek charges.

“Officers provided multiple lawful commands to VanAtten and he failed to comply,” Nessel said in a release. “Officers Menser and Viera discharged their weapons multiple times and VanAtten’s encounter with the ELPD resulted in him being shot twice. A loaded firearm was found near where VanAtten was apprehended by police.”

Related: ‘A commitment to transparency’ -- East Lansing police release footage from inside Meijer store

Conversely, VanAtten has been charged with one count carrying a concealed weapon, one count receiving and concealing a firearm, one count felony firearm, four counts resisting and obstructing an officer, one count third degree retail fraud.

Nessel said that she found the officers’ shooting of VanAtten was a reasonable use of force under the circumstances.

“Michigan law does give a police officer the right to use the degree of force that is reasonable under the circumstances to effectuate an arrest and protect themselves and others while making that arrest,” said Nessel. “If a person uses force within our state’s definition of self-defense, their actions are justified under the law, and they are not guilty of a crime.”

Capitol City Labor Program representing about 700 people employed in positions of police officers, correctional officers, 911 dispatchers, parking enforcement and related police work. Our members work for local or county government in Clinton, Eaton, Ingham and Jackson counties. They released a statement regarding Nessel’s decision on Wednesday.

“Since it’s inception, the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Unit has reviewed 40 cases, issuing charges in more than 30 of them,” they wrote. “Attorney General Nessel has decided not to do so in this case. Instead, she determined it was ‘clear’ that the involved officers acted reasonably under the circumstances.”

Capitol City Labor Program representatives said the decision by AG Nessel should lead citizens of East Lansing to question the objectiveness and the purpose of the Independent Police Oversight Committee, which is in charge of ensuring police are not themselves breaking the law.

“The decision of the attorney general to charge the suspect with multiple firearm-related felonies, while simultaneously clearing the officers of any wrongdoing, should lead members of the East Lansing community to question the both the objective judgement and purpose of the Independent Police Oversight Committee,” they said. “The officers involved in this unfortunate incident are dedicated public servants. They acted dutifully and legally in protecting the public on the afternoon of April 25. They, along with the rest of our organization’s members, will continue to do so. It is our expectoration that the city will promptly return the officers to duty.”

In the afternoon, the East Lansing Police Department announced the two officers currently on paid administrative leave will be returning to work. They will be initially assigned to non-patrol duties during their transition back to serving with ELPD.

“An officer-involved shooting is never and should never be taken lightly,” said East Lansing Police Chief Kim Johnson. “We understand that this has been extremely difficult for our community and, while this situation was challenging, it also provides us with the opportunity to reflect, grow and improve.”


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