Virginia prosecutor finds 2018 police shooting justified

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The fatal police shooting of an unarmed Black man who ran onto a highway during a mental health crisis was justified, a Virginia prosecutor said Friday.

The finding by Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin mirrors an earlier finding by her predecessor, former Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Herring. McEachin said in a 10-page report released Friday that the officer’s use of deadly force on Marcus-David Peters was a “reasonable response” to the danger posed by Peters.

Peters was a 24-year-old high school biology teacher when he was shot by a Richmond police officer on May 14, 2018.

Police said Peters struck several vehicles with his car, then crashed into brush in a grassy area next to a highway ramp. Body camera video showed Peters climb out of his car — naked— and run into rush hour traffic on Interstate 95. He laid down on the highway, rolled around and flailed his arms and legs.

The officer, who was also Black, pointed a stun gun at Peters, who then ran toward the officer while shouting and threatening to kill him. The officer deployed the stun gun, which appeared to have no effect, then shot Peters with his service weapon.

Peters died later at a hospital.

Three months later, Herring cleared the officer of any wrongdoing, finding that a reasonable officer in those circumstances would have believed Peters was capable of overcoming him and taking control of his gun.

At the urging of Peters’ family and police reform advocates, McEachin agreed to review the case. She reached a similar conclusion, finding that “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.”

Peters’ sister, Princess Blanding, said the officer — who said over his police radio that he was dealing with a man who was “mentally unstable” — should not have used deadly force on someone who was in the throes of a mental health crisis.

She said Friday that she disagrees with McEachin’s finding.

“Marcus was not violent toward anyone. He ran to the highway. He was not violent to anybody. He was in his own world,” Blanding said.

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