Man shot by EL police outside Meijer charged with seven felonies, officers cleared
Updated on August 25 at 9:21 a.m. ET
A man shot in a Meijer parking lot by East Lansing Police Department officers in April has been charged with seven felony counts and one misdemeanor count.
The charges against 20 year-old DeAnthony VanAtten, who is Black, appeared Tuesday night on the 54B District Court’s website. They include felony charges of assault, resisting or obstructing police, one count carrying a concealed weapon, one count receiving and concealing a weapon, one felony firearm count and one misdemeanor third degree retail fraud charge.
Security footage shows VanAtten checking out at a Meijer grocery store buying mac and cheese and ears of corn on April 25. Police then arrive in response to 911 calls alleging a man had run into the store with a gun.
VanAtten was then chased into the parking lot by police who yelled for VanAtten to stop, get on the ground and show his hands.
At one point in the chase, East Lansing police officers Jose Viera and James Menser fire eight rounds at VanAtten. Of the shots fired, two strike VanAtten, in the abdomen and in the leg. Officers then handcuffed VanAtten.
VanAtten didn’t have a gun on his person when arrested. However, bodycam footage shows officers finding a gun under a vehicle. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said it was found loaded and later identified as stolen.
Viera and Menser were placed on paid administrative leave following the incident while under investigation by the Michigan State Police. Attorney General Nessel announced Wednesday she would not seek charges against the officers.
“The use of force by these two officers was justified. They took the measures necessary to eliminate an immediate and extreme threat,” Nessel said at a press conference Wednesday.
“We look at the totality of the circumstances, and we look to see whether or not there was a deadly threat that was posed either to law enforcement or to members of the public.”
The conference detailed the results of her Public Integrity Unit’s investigation into the matter. Nessel said her office weighed the entirety of the case before reaching its decision and is "very confident" about clearing the officers.
“Just because there are videos that have been released through various outlets to the public, that does not mean that what have been available to the media and available to the public is each and every video that our office has reviewed.”
The ELPD has announced that it will begin its internal investigation of the shooting now that Nessel's office has concluded its own.
The department will determine if any of the officers violated policies or protocols during the incident.
Officers Viera and Menser will be allowed to return to work and will initially be assigned to non-patrol duties.
“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," Chief Kim Johnson said in a statement Wednesday.
The ELPD has been criticized by Black Lives Matter Lansing activists who have said VanAtten was buying groceries for a cookout and was caught “shopping while Black.”
The group stated on Facebook that the charges against VanAtten are “stacked against him for having the audacity to still be alive and to justify the cops opening fire in a Meijer's parking lot with children present.”
“The police showed up like they had an active shooter situation,” BLM Lansing leader Rev. Sean Holland said. “And so, it’s because of this man’s ethnicity, because he was a young Black man identified, that narrative kicks in.”
Holland said VanAtten wasn’t an immediate threat or danger and had the initial 911 call, which he said was racial profiling, not been placed, VanAtten would’ve returned to his car.
“VanAtten did not die. He was not murdered, and I think we need to name that this violence was real, and it was intended to kill him. When they shot those eight shots, they did not shoot to disengage or to slow him down, those were fatal shots that missed,” Holland said.
VanAtten remains in the Ingham County jail and was arraigned on charges Wednesday afternoon.
Colin Jackson contributed to the reporting of this story.