The memorial for Marcus David Peters stays up at the Circle that locals refer to by his name. Dogwood photo by Meg Schiffres. A Tribute to Marcus David Peters
The memorial for Marcus David Peters stays up at the Circle that locals refer to by his name. Dogwood photo by Meg Schiffres.

McEachin writes that a Richmond officer made a “reasonable” decision when he opened fire.

RICHMOND-There will be no new investigation into Marcus-David Peters’ death. For the second time, Richmond’s commonwealth’s attorney declared the schoolteacher’s shooting by a city police officer as “reasonable.”

“The officer’s ultimate decision to use lethal force was a reasonable response to the imminent danger presented to himself and the public by Mr. Peters’ continued violent behavior due to his mental deterioration,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin.

Earlier this year, McEachin agreed to review her predecessor’s ruling that the shooting was justified. She released her answer in a 10-page report delivered Friday.

Peters was a Essex County school teacher who was shot and killed by Richmond police on May 14, 2018. Police officer Michael Nyantakyi saw Peters’ car hit another vehicle near the intersection of N. Belvidere St. and W. Franklin St. Peters hit two other vehicles before his car came to a stop in the center of the on-ramp for Interstate-95 North.

Clearly exhibiting signs of mental distress, Peters ran naked from the car and into traffic. He was hit by a vehicle and then laid in the right travel lane. McEachin’s report acknowledges Peters needed help.

“He then moved to the shoulder of the roadway, where he again laid on the ground moving his arms and legs as if making snow angels,” the report says. “Mr. Peters can be heard talking to himself while he thrashed and rolled on the shoulder of the travel lane.”

Report raises more questions than it answers

At this point, Nyantakyi requested additional police units to come to the scene. At no point in the report does anyone mention a call for medical or mental assistance. The officer pulled out his taser while going to check on Peters, who at that point didn’t seem to realize anyone else was there. He was still making snow angels on the side of the road.

As Nyantakyi came closer, Peters noticed he was there and started cursing. McEachin’s review says Peters lunged towards the police officer in the moments before he was shot. However, the review also makes a couple key points in describing that encounter. McEachin acknowledges that it’s possible the two never came into physical contact before Peters was killed. 

“Nude and unarmed, Mr. Peters advanced closer and lunged at the officer with his arms extended in what appeared to be an effort to grab him. In his interview, the officer acknowledged that Mr. Peters was unarmed,” McEachin wrote. “But he indicated that by this point, it was ‘an all-out fight between the two’ of them to gain control over his firearm.”

The report doesn’t explain what made it ‘an all-out fight’ over the officer’s gun. Peters, at this point, was still a few feet away. Far enough away that Nyantakyi used his taser. When that didn’t have any effect, he pulled out his gun.

“As Mr. Peters continued to charge in apparent attack, the officer fired at least twice,” McEachin’s report said. “It is unclear whether Mr. Peters actually made contact before shots were fired.” 

‘He deserved help, not death’

Marcus’ sister and Black liberation activist Princess Blanding says her brother did not even notice the police officer was present until he came towards Marcus with his weapon drawn and escalated the situation.

“To play the card that Marcus was aggressive, Marcus got out of the car, ran in the opposite direction of the officer towards the highway, where he proceeded to make snow angels,” said Blanding. “You can’t hold a person mentally unstable responsible for following demands. We heard the officer say that this person is mentally unstable. And then he expects him to follow commands.” 

Though disappointed, Blanding says she’s not surprised by McEachin’s decision. 

“The Democratic Party aims to keep Black people oppressed and has no desire to bring forth Black liberation,” said Blanding. “Collette did exactly what the Democratic Machine expected her to do. She didn’t do an investigation. When I met with her in July, my uncle and I, she made it very, very clear in her own way that she didn’t see anything wrong about the ruling of her predecessor.” 

Local protesters enraged by decision

The death of Marcus-David Peters two years ago sparked protests against police brutality in Richmond that have continued to this day. Local residents renamed the Lee Monument Memorial in Richmond after Peters, and the space has been reclaimed by Black liberation activists demonstrating in the capital city. 

On the evening that McEachin’s decision was released, Black liberation activists at Marcus-David Peters Circle said they are enraged by her ruling. 

“You want to know how we feel? We’re angry! [We’re] angry! We’re angry,” said community care organizer Autumn Nazeer. 

Blanding said the fight for Black liberation is not over. She won’t give up and the fight must continue.

“It’s very, very clear and needs to be understood and documented that Princess Blanding won’t give up. The fight’s not just about Marcus-David Peters, it’s about bringing about and demanding Black liberation,” said Blanding.