DeAnthony VanAtten pulled into the parking lot of a Meier’s store in East Lansing, Michigan last month, planning on running inside for a few minutes to make a minor purchase.
But the 20-year-old man was spotted by a man in another car who saw him stepping out of a silver Chevy Equinox with a gun in his hand before slipping the gun into his pocket.
VanAtten was also wearing a mask but the store has been encouraging customers to wear masks during the pandemic. Also, Michigan is an open carry state that also allows citizens to carry guns concealed with the proper permit.
But the man who evidently was inside the car next to VanAtten’s in the parking lot believed VanAtten was up to no good and called 911. A dispatcher relayed the information to East Lansing police officers, pointing out that VanAtten had not threatened anybody with the gun.
“I have a caller that advised for a 20-year-old Black male, he was wearing a yellow and black jacket with a mask covering his whole face except his eyes, pulled a gun out of his car and went inside the store, caller’s advising that the accused walked in through the grocery side,” the dispatcher tells officers, according to an audio recording included in the video below.
“He’s not threatening anybody with it, just walked inside the store.”
Nevertheless, the videos released last week show four East Lansing police officers responding to the April 25 incident, arriving to the scene seven minutes later. Two of the cops enter the store in one entrance and another cop named Jim Menser enter through a second entrance.
Menser encounters VanAtten as the young man is exiting the store, carrying a small plastic bag in his hand.
“Hey! Let me see your fucking hands!” Menser yells while drawing his gun. “Let me see your fucking hands!”
VanAtten responds by running away, the bag in one hand, his other hand in the air, showing he was not holding a gun.
Menser chases him through the parking lot with the two other cops who were inside the store running closely behind him.
The fourth cop, Jose Viera, pulls into the parking lot and spots VanAtten running, so he stopped his patrol car and began running after him as well.
Viera was the closest cop to VanAtten as he made his way to the Equinox he was driving that day. Inside the car was a young woman with her baby, waiting for VanAtten to return from the store, not realizing he was about to be shot.
“He’s reaching, he’s reaching!” Viera yells as he closed in on VanAtten.
“He’s got a gun!” Viera yella, pulling out his gun and firing twice but missing.
Meanwhile, Menser was about about 50 feet behind Viera and repeated what he heard Viera say about VanAtten wielding a gun – even though he never actually saw the gun.
“He’s got a gun! He’s got a gun!”
While the videos released by the East Lansing Police Department do not show VanAtten holding a gun, an overhead security video shows him running in between some cars as police chase him and stooping down, apparently placing the gun underneath a car.
The video then shows him trying to hide among the cars before stepping into the parking lane to continue running away.
However, Menser who is hiding behind a car fires six times, striking him twice.
“Get on the fucking ground!” he yells after VanAtten has fallen on the ground while screaming in pain.
But the gun that led to the shooting was not found until three minutes later underneath a parked car.
VanAtten survived the shooting and was treated at a hospital. He was charged with violating the terms of his probation but it is not clear at this time what were those terms.
At this time, there is no evidence that VanAtten has a concealed weapons permit and there is no evidence he was otherwise committing any crimes inside the store. Meier’s store policy asks customers not to open carry but says nothing about concealed weapons.
The East Lansing Independent Police Commission is questioning how police responded to the call, specifically whether cops were under any direct threat when they shot him and whether the initial call was biased to begin with considering Michigan is a gun-friendly state and VanAtt is Black.
East Lansing City Ordinance 1490 approved in 2020 which forbids calls to police that are based on biased instead of reasonable suspicion states the following:
No person shall knowingly and intentionally report to a City of East Lansing Police Officer, the City of East Lansing Police Department, a City of East Lansing Official or report to Ingham County 911, a complaint that a person has committed, or that the person may or will commit a crime or is otherwise acting suspiciously when such a report is not based on a reasonable suspicion or fear of criminal activity, but is rather based, in significant part, on the person’s race, color, or national origin.
Even if the man who called police was genuinely concerned, the police commission is questioning why the cops responded so aggressively when the caller made it clear VanAtten was not threatening anybody with the gun.
The Michigan State Police has completed it investigation into the shooting and has sent its findings to the Michigan Attorney General’s office which will determine if the officers will be charged with any crimes.
Watch the edited video below or the entire video package released by East Lansing police here.