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East Lansing officials call on AG to drop charges or transfer Meijer shooting case

City of East Lansing
The East Lansing City Council, has passed a motion calling for charges against DeAnthony VanAtten to be dropped.

East Lansing’s mayor and city manager are officially asking Attorney General Dana Nessel to drop charges against a man shot by East Lansing police in April.

DeAnthony VanAtten has been charged with seven felonies and one misdemeanor after allegedly running into a Meijer store with a gun.

He was shot at by two ELPD officers, Jose Viera and Jim Menser, in the store's parking lot before his arrest. Both officers' actions have been cleared by Nessel.

The motion, passed Tuesday night by the East Lansing City Council, was brought forward by the city's Independent Police Oversight Commission. It calls for charges against VanAtten to be dropped, or to have the case transferred to the Ingham County Prosecutor's Office if the charges stick.

Mayor Ron Bacon described Nessel’s press conference revealing the charges as “political theater,” with VanAtten caught in the middle.

“I think it’s very difficult once you’re placed with … that political football and it’s bundled like that in a way where you’re going to show that you’re tough on officers, 'And I’m also tough on crime,' and I think this individual's fallen into that,” Bacon said during the council meeting.

Bacon and Councilmember Dana Watson met with Nessel prior to the vote. They both agreed at Tuesday’s meeting it’s unlikely she’ll drop the charges.

Watson voted in favor of the motion. She told WKAR that she learned from her meeting with Nessel that it’s uncommon for the attorney general's office to split decisions on cases involving officers and parties involved.

“It comes now then as something to think outside the box, or think about why has it always gone down this way? Like, is there a possibility that it can— that this portion can be passed back to Ingham County,” Watson said.

The motion also requests relevant investigation files related to the shooting. Watson said this is important for the police oversight commission so that they can understand the incident and consider preventative policies.

“We don’t shoot people because they don’t check out their produce,” she said. “DeAnthony was running away, there’s questions about, 'Do we shoot people when they’re running away, and do we shoot in a packed parking lot?’”

As the lone dissenting vote, George Brookover said the police oversight commission is one of the most critical advisory bodies and they should continue doing their work but to also allow Nessel to do hers. The councilmember added VanAtten should “have his day in court.”

“I don’t believe that as a city we should be discussing evidence implicitly or explicitly that is going to be available to a jury during its deliberations,” Brookover said during Tuesday’s council meeting.

The motion passed 3-1 with Bacon, Watson and Mayor Pro Tem Jessy Gregg voting in favor of the motion, and Brookover voting against. Councilmember Lisa Babcock abstained from the vote, citing her run for 54B District Court judge.

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