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EL Police Oversight Commission continues to push for records on Meijer shooting

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

East Lansing’s Independent Police Oversight Commission has voted to submit a public records request to the Michigan State Police. They’re seeking investigation reports related to the April 25 police shooting outside a Meijer grocery store.

The resolution passed Sept. 7 and directs the chair and vice chair of the commission to submit Freedom of Information Act requests to the state police department.

As part of the same resolution, the commission is also requesting investigation reports related to Grand Rapids Police Officer Christopher Schurr, who shot and killed Patrick Lyoya.

This follows Attorney General Dana Nessel’s decision to clear two East Lansing Police officers of any wrongdoing in the April 25 shooting of DeAnthony VanAtten in a Meijer parking lot. VanAtten was shot following a chase that started after 911 calls alleged a man with a gun had run into the store.

He has since been charged with seven felonies and one misdemeanor.

Commissioner Kath Edsall said the role of the police oversight commission is to create better outcomes in policing situations when it pertains to people of color in the community, including Black, Brown and Indigenous people. And, the lack of information is impeding their ability to do that.

“We need information,” Edsall said. “There is information in the Michigan State Police files as far as what they saw that may have been different from what each of us saw on the videos. ... We would like to have an understanding of why we may have viewed things one way, and they have viewed them another way.”

Members of the committee, including Edsall, have voiced frustration with the attorney’s office for not releasing more information on VanAtten’s case. Nessel reasoned that VanAtten’s case was still pending.

“We also feel that it would be valuable to the East Lansing Police Department as they pursue policy and disciplinary actions,” Edsall said.

By requesting information on both VanAtten’s case and Patrick Lyoya’s case, vice chair of the commission Chris Root said they’re attempting to understand how police shootings are investigated in the state.

“We have already learned that MSP does not have written guidelines for such investigations involving other police departments in Michigan,” she said. Root adds they want to see if MSP handled the cases differently and what impact it might have had on their findings.

In another effort to gain more information on VanAtten’s case, the commission also voted to ask East Lansing Mayor Ron Bacon and city manager George Lahanas to request records related to the events leading up to the arrest and events thereafter from Nessel.

“It’s very similar to the request to the Michigan State Police, it’s to ask the Attorney General’s office for any information that does not interfere with the prosecution of DeAnthony,” Kath Edsall said.

Edsall said the commission is also requesting VanAtten’s case be transferred over to Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon. She said VanAtten could potentially face lesser penalties if prosecuted by Siemon.

“[Siemon] would also have more access to more local programs to support DeAnthony in other options than prison,” Edsall said.

Other than requests for information and a transfer of the case, Edsall said she’s not sure the oversight commission has the power to change the outcome for VanAtten.

VanAtten’s case has also spurred outrage among community members. A petition with 33 signatures from residents called on the oversight commission to host a hearing on best practices for police use of force and training. Commissioner Chris Root said the commission has begun planning the hearing that will include testimony from local and national experts.

The police oversight committee will meet again on Oct. 5.

Melorie Begay is the local producer and host of Morning Edition.
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