The family of Marcus-David Peters, the man shot and killed by Richmond police on I-95 while naked, remains convinced that the shooting was excessive force after watching the officer’s body camera video, which police released to the public on May 25.
"Marcus deserved help. He clearly, very clearly, was in distress... in major distress," said Princess Blanding, Peters’ sister, on May 23.
The officer who shot and killed 24-year-old Peters on I-95 on May 14 has been identified 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.
Peters' sister says her family now has a better understanding of the moments leading up to the shooting and the heightened state her brother was in after viewing the body camera footage on Wednesday. Blanding and Peters’ uncle spent nearly two hours with Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham watching body camera video.
However, she says this does not change her feelings.
"Our stance did not change. Marcus did not deserve to be killed,” said Blanding. "Police have confirmed Marcus was clearly unarmed. He was in distress. He was in need of help. He was not in need of death."
"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.
Halperin says 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.
After police held a press conference showing the events of that day, the family said the police department was not being fully transparent and continued to call for justice.
NBC12 safety analyst Mike Jones, a former Capitol Police Chief, says even though someone is unarmed, that doesn't mean they can't kill you.
"I could kill you with my bare hands. It has happened. When people get under certain conditions, their strength increases. They don't know their own strength,” said Jones.
Peters' family says they will be fighting for change.
"Our officers, not just in Richmond, not just in the state of Virginia, but nationwide, have to be trained in a different manner. They need better tools in their tool kit. Their answer can't always be that ‘I have a gun and I'm going to go for the gun.'" said Blanding.
Prior to released the video to the public, Police Chief Alfred Durham said that "my primary concern during this difficult time has been for the family and for my officer. They remain greatly affected by this tragic loss of life. Showing the complete, unedited video to the family will allow us to provide a greater understanding of the circumstances that led to the use of deadly force."
He also said the department was releasing the video "to clear the air and set the record straight. There is so much misinformation out there right now. The facts are what should matter, here."
Peters was shot in the abdomen May 14 after police say he hit another car at the intersection of W. Franklin and N. Belvidere streets and fled the scene. He later lost control of the vehicle on the I-95 on-ramp at Chamberlayne Avenue and hit two cars.
Peters was naked when he was shot. His death was ruled a homicide by the Medical Examiner’s Office, and police said he was unarmed.
“Peters emerged from his disabled vehicle and ran into the northbound lanes of I-95,” Lepley said. “He was not wearing any clothes… [we’re trying to figure out] why he didn’t have any clothes on.”
"The perspective where a person acts in a very unusual way immediately begs the question: why?” said Jones. “Is it a mental disorder? Is it a drug disorder?”
Police have not said whether drugs or alcohol were involved in the situation.
The incident closed down the interstate for a few hours while officers responded to the scene, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Monday afternoon Lepley said the man attacked an officer and forced him to use deadly force.
"Our officer attempted to use a taser on the person and it failed," Lepley said. "The attack continued and the officer drew his service weapon and discharged it striking that man."
However, many people in the community question the use of deadly force with an unarmed naked man.
"Officers are taught to stop the aggressor,” Jones said. “When things are that close and moving that fast, the ability to shoot someone in the knee or shoot a gun out of their hand is virtually impossible."
"We are all deeply affected by what happened here - by the loss of life," said Durham. "Our officers do not take the use of deadly force lightly. I think it’s important to remember that being naked does not remove a threat. So far, the eyewitness accounts we’ve heard have been consistent: our officer tried using verbal commands, then used non-lethal force first by deploying his Taser before using his service weapon."
"An unarmed person does not necessarily mean that you cannot be killed by an unarmed person,” Jones said. “I've seen cases where officers have been strangled with the bare hands of a suspect."
A witness said Peters was, "naked and rolling around on the interstate for some time before he stood to walk towards the cops." The witness added that "tasers were drawn and he was told to get down multiple times."
A woman who was walking home noticed the chaotic scene and said this incident is hard to believe.
“We've seen little accidents from time to time, protests,” said Vail Shepherd. “Normal things to Richmond city, but this is a little bit out of the ordinary I'd say.”
Another witness said he and his friend heard two shots as soon as police and the naked man disappeared from sight. As the two drove by, the witness saw the suspect face down in the bushes of the off ramp.
NBC12 legal analyst, Steve Benjamin, said it's appropriate for an officer to use deadly force when, "...it reasonably appears necessary to avoid death or serious injury. The use of a firearm is deadly force."
Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call Major Crimes Detective R. Wigfall at (804) 646-6769 or Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000.
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