Family: Police department not being fully transparent in I-95 shooting death

Family speaks after police release body cam footage
Published: May. 25, 2018 at 3:09 PM EDT|Updated: May. 25, 2018 at 4:14 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The family of Marcus Peters, the man shot and killed by Richmond police on I-95 while naked on May 14, said the Richmond Police Department is not being fully transparent in the release of body camera footage that was released Friday.

"Marcus needed help, not death," said Peters' sister, Princess Blanding. "... There is nothing, and I say nothing, that Chief [Alfred] Durham can say that will change my mind."

Blanding also claimed the police department has not released all of the videos that are available, saying what was released from The Jefferson Hotel is "incomplete."

"There are moments where Marcus appears and moments where he disappears," Blanding said. "Even [with] the footage there's no time stamp on that either."

Peters' family watched the officer's body camera video for the first time Wednesday and said then that the shooting was excessive force.

Friday morning the Richmond Police Department released the video to the public and Chief Alfred Durham gave an update on the status of the investigation, along with a progress report from RPD's Force Investigation Team (FIT).

"I'm extremely appalled that Chief Durham attempted to defend the actions of the officer who killed my brother," Blanding said Friday.

While the Chief said he would not offer judgement about the situation he did offer commentary about the string of events.

On May 17, three days after the shooting, RPD identified the officer who shot and killed Peters as Michael Nyantakyi.

Nyantakyi has been with Richmond police for 10 years and was placed on administrative leave following the shooting.

Police say Nyantakyi was alone at the time of the shooting and that other officers - including Virginia State Police troopers - arrived after the shots were fired.

"The only deadly threat in this situation was the fully armed Richmond Police officer that shot and killed my brother," Blanding said.

These comments came during a news conference at Second Baptist Church following the release of the videos to the public.


"[They] should be seen," Blanding said. "I'm here right now because I challenge, and I don't agree with Chief Durham's interpretation of what it is that took place. I want the people to be able to make an informed decision."

While Blanding said the videos helped answer some questions, they raised even more.

"This entire situation really has me wondering who are police trained to help?" she said. "Who are they serving and protecting? Themselves? … [The officer] failed to protect my brother. He failed the city of Richmond. He failed our community, when he decided to act as a judge, jury and executioner on the spot."

Blanding said the behavior exhibited by her brother on May 14 is something she and her family had never seen before.

While medical reports and toxicology results have yet to be released, Blanding said the officer verbally acknowledged he may be dealing with a mental person, which can be heard in the body camera video.

"At that point, it became the officer's responsibility to follow proper protocol when dealing with the situation which you identified as a mental health situation," Blanding said.

At Friday's news conference Durham did not detail protocol in these types of situations.

"There are protocols, policies and procedures that well-trained departments follow when somebody exhibits signs of what appears to me to be excited delirium," said Jonathan Halperin, attorney for the Peters' family Wednesday following review of the body camera video.

Halperin said Peters was having a mental episode and that the officer can be heard saying as such, in the video. It has not yet been released whether that episode was brought on by psychiatric problems or from drugs.

While police only provided body camera footage of the incident and surveillance from inside The Jefferson Hotel, where Peters worked security part-time, Blanding was adamant this situation could have been avoided with non-lethal force.

"Marcus was unarmed, clearly in distress, and in need of help," she said. "Instead receiving help, he received two fatal bullets."

On May 15, a spokeswoman for The Jefferson Hotel said the company had "no comment" about the situation.

Peters taught Biology I and II at Essex High School and worked weekends at The Jefferson in Richmond. Blanding said he taught that day at school and was there until around 4 p.m.

She said she went to look for him at the end of the school day; Peters was supposed to file a report, but she couldn't find him.

Blanding said she eventually got a text message from Peters' girlfriend who he lives with and who she is extremely close to. The text said Peters stopped at home and was headed to a meeting at his second job, The Jefferson in Richmond. He worked security there part-time since becoming a biology teacher.

Saturday a community meeting will be held at the Second Baptist Church as the family seeks justice for Peters' death and an end to what Blanding calls a systemic problem.

"The fight is just starting," Blanding said. "I will continue, and it's a commitment of mine to continue to fight for justice, not just for Marcus, not reformation just for Marcus, but for all of my people. When I say 'all of my people' I mean young and old."

A social media post about the event said the goal is to "demand justice and accountability" and will have organizations working on police accountability present. The meeting will take place Saturday, May 26 at Second Baptist (1400 Idlewood Ave.) from 2 to 4 p.m.

Karina Bolster will have updates online and on 12News at 5.

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