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EL community demands answers as officials pledge to release video of police shooting

charity vanatten.jpg
Sarah Lehr
Charity VanAtten says police shot her nephew at a Meijer grocery in East Lansing on Monday, April 25, 2022. She joined community members in pushing for answers at a police oversight commission meeting in the city on Thursday, April 28, 2022

Community members demanded answers Thursday night as an oversight commission pressured East Lansing's police chief to promptly release video of a Monday night shooting by police that left a Black man hospitalized.

Michigan State Police are investigating the incident, but East Lansing Police Chief Kim Johnson said he planned to publicly release video from the interaction "soon" before MSP's inquiry concluded.

Police oversight commission pushes for prompt release of video

Citizens on a newly-appointed police oversight commission wanted a more definitive timeline, however, and they voted Thursday to ask the chief for its release "ideally" within the next three days but within no more than seven days.

That timeline isn't binding, said City Attorney Anthony Chubb, who characterized the commission's vote as a "request."

The chief told commissioners Thursday he hadn't yet seen video from the incident, but said he planned to consult with the commission, MSP and the Michigan Attorney General's Office before releasing the video with certain redactions to preserve privacy.

Official statement leaves unanswered questions as investigation continues

Officers responded Monday night just after 6:30 p.m. to a call about man who pulled a gun out of a car and into his pocket and walked into a Meijer grocery store, according to a Monday night statement from East Lansing Police. The 911 caller described the man as Black, Johnson confirmed Thursday, adding that the man remains in stable condition.

After police chased the man out of the store, "shots were fired" and a man "was struck," the statement said.

The statement was heavy on passive voice and left the sequence of events hazy; It did not make clear how many people fired shots or who may have fired shots.

The two officers involved with the shooting are on paid administrative leave and Johnson said Thursday he would not release their names while MSP's investigation is ongoing.

ELPD blocking Meijer entrance.png
Sarah Lehr
East Lansing police blocked entrances to the Lake Lansing Road Meijer store following an officer-involved shooting Monday evening.

Commissioners including Amanda Morgan questioned why police responded to a report about something that didn't appear to be a crime.

"We need to remind our community members that we simply cannot call the police every time you see a Black person," she said, noting that City Council approved an ordinance in 2020 that sets misdemeanor penalties for "knowingly and intentionally" calling police on someone in large part because of that person's race rather than "reasonable suspicion" that the person will commit a crime.

Concealed and open carry of guns is legal in Michigan, provided the owner has a permit. Private businesses can ban guns on their property, but Meijer corporate did not respond Thursday to a request for comment.

Family shares frustration as young man remains in hospital

The aftermath of the shooting has been "devastating," members of the man's family said.

"He's in the hospital handcuffed to a bed with two bullets still in him," the man's aunt, Charity VanAtten said.

Following the incident at Meijer, the probation department of the Ingham County's 30th Circuit Court issued a warrant for the man, Lt. Chad Pride said during the meeting. Police haven't released the man's name and Pride declined to elaborate on the nature of that warrant.

Pride also declined to disclose the race of the officers involved in the shooting. East Lansing officials have referred questions to MSP spokesman Brian Olesyk, who also declined to comment on the race of the officers.

"We understand that the public wants answers," Olesyk said. "But to be fair, and to both parties involved, we want to make sure that we do and we will do a complete, thorough, accurate investigation, and it takes time to collect the evidence and document all that before we present it to the prosecutor."

But, Farhan Sheikh-Omar, who's led protests against police brutality, said city officials haven't been transparent.

"Anytime there's a shooting, the community wants the videos because we know we can't trust your words," he said.

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