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Security video shows man inside grocery store before running, being shot by EL police

east-lansing-meijer.jpg
Sarah Lehr | WKAR-MSU
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East Lansing police blocked entrances to the Lake Lansing Road Meijer store following an officer-involved shooting Monday evening.

The city of East Lansing has released more videos showing what happened before police shot a man outside a Meijer grocery store last month.

City officials had already published police body camera video along with some store security footage from the April 25th incident. But members of a citizen-led police board wanted a fuller picture and called for the release of video showing what happened before police arrived.

City officials responded by publishing additional store security footage, which doesn’t have sound, on Monday. It shows the man shopping for macaroni and cheese and ears of corn. It then shows him scanning the mac and cheese and using a card to pay for it at a self-checkout lane although he appears to take the corn without scanning it. Some produce at Meijer can be paid for by looking up a code and entering a quantity instead of scanning or weighing the item.

He starts running after police arrive at the store in response to a 911 call about man with a gun.

Police chase him into the store parking lot and order him repeatedly to get to the ground and show his hands, body camera footage shows. An officer can be heard shouting "He's reaching" and "He's got a gun."

He keeps running before two officers fired eight rounds total at him, body camera footage indicates.

After shooting and handcuffing the man, police did not find a gun on his person. Video later shows them locating one under a car in the store parking lot.

The man, whom family members have identified as 20-year-old DeAthony VanAtten, was hospitalized after the shooting before being booked into and released from jail on a probation violation. Court records from the underlying conviction that led to that probation violation were sealed under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, a spokesman for the Ingham County Prosecutor's office has said.

VanAtten's attorney, Ina R. O'Briant said VanAtten ran into the store initially because he wanted to buy groceries for a family barbecue and was running late. He starts running again after police arrive.

"The fact that he was running has been seen by many as some sort of indication that he was doing something wrong," O'Briant said in a statement. "What people don't know is that, unfortunately, as with many other young African American men in today's society, this was not the first time that DeAnthony has experienced unwarranted and unacceptable police misconduct. DeAnthony will be the first person to admit that he is extremely afraid of the police, as many African-American men are."

Along with bullet wounds after being shot "in the back," VanAtten suffered fractured ribs and a fractured Ilium, which is part of the hip bone, O'Briant said.

"He still has two bullets lodged in his body that cannot be safely removed at this time and may never be removed," O'Briant's statement said.

Michigan State Police investigators referred the incident on Friday to the Michigan Attorney General for possible criminal charges. The officers who fired shots, Jim Menser and Jose Viera, remain on paid administrative leave.

Mike Nichols, who represents Viera, says it's clear VanAtten stole the corn.

"One doesn't need any expert training and police training to observe that he did the old pay for one item but slipped the other item past the scanner," he said.

Nichols acknowledges, however, he doesn't believe those actions are relevant to justifying why officers fired shots.

"I don't think this is about a retail fraud," Nichols said. "I think this is about trying to make contact with somebody who had a concealed weapon on their person in a densely populated grocery store."

Allegations of theft are not mentioned in 911 calls about the incident obtained by WKAR in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Black Lives Matter activists have said previously that VanAtten, who is Black, went shopping to buy corn and macaroni for a cookout.

"He left his girlfriend and her 8-month-old baby in the car and said, 'I'll be right back,'" local BLM leader Rev. Sean Holland said following a May 3 news conference. "And somewhere between that conversation and walking into Meijer, going and getting those items and checking out, he never made it home. His crime — shopping while Black."

Attorney Patrick O'Keefe, who is representing Menser, says he's confident MSP's investigation will result in both officers being cleared with charges filed against VanAtten.

"While nobody deserves to be shot over the color of their skin, that is not why Mr. VanAtten was shot. He was shot because he was seen carrying a firearm into a crowded store, through a crowded parking lot and seemingly preparing himself to fire shots at the officers," O'Keefe said in a statement. "He could have — and may have — killed multiple innocent persons and officers but for the heroic actions of these fine officers."

Videos related to to the shooting can be found at East Lansing's website.