Sister of Henrico Man Fatally Shot by Police Says Viewing Body Cam Has Not Changed Her Position

The sister of the Henrico County man who was slain by police last week said video captured by the Richmond officer who killed him hasn’t convinced her that shooting him was the right decision.

“Clearly, he needed help, not death,” Princess Blanding, the older sister of Marcus-David Peters, said Wednesday in a phone interview.

Blanding and her uncle, along with their attorney, watched the video twice Wednesday. She said the footage, which she said was roughly nine minutes long, showed her brother “in crisis” as he crashed into several vehicles, emerged from his car without clothing, and ran into rush-hour traffic along Interstate 95/64 before he was shot twice.

“[It was] very hard to watch,” Blanding said. “Even post-watching the video, our stance has not changed anything. I left out of that police station feeling 10 times stronger than what I felt before I watched it as far as the stance that Marcus needed help.”

Police said Peters, who was naked and unarmed, charged at officer Michael Nyantakyi, who has 10 years of service with the department and, like Peters, is black.

Nyantakyi attempted to stop Peters with a Taser before shooting him. Nyantakyi is on administrative leave while the department investigates the shooting.

Neither Blanding nor the family’s lawyer, Jonathan E. Halperin, a personal injury attorney, would go into much detail about the moments just before Peters was shot, saying they want people to make their own judgment when police release the footage publicly.

Chief Alfred Durham announced late last week that the department would hold a news conference and release the video after Peters’ family had seen it, though a date has not been set.

The department has never released body camera footage. Typically, video can be viewed at the department only by those involved.

In an earlier statement, Durham said he hoped showing the footage would provide the family with closure and “clear the air and set the record straight.” Durham said Peters’ lack of a weapon and clothing didn’t necessarily mean he posed no threat.

The department did not comment Wednesday.

Both Blanding and Halperin said they believe Peters’ death was avoidable.

“He was in crisis,” Blanding said. “He needed major help, and he was not given help. Execution was the option, and there were other things that could be done.

“Instead of helping him, he killed him,” she said of the officer.

Halperin said that in the video, the officer acknowledges that he’s dealing with a person experiencing a mental breakdown, which Halperin described as “excited delirium” — a condition the Journal of Emergency Medical Services defined as the sudden onset of agitation, anxiety, hallucinations, speech disturbances, disorientation, violent and bizarre behavior, insensitivity to pain, elevated body temperature and superhuman strength.

“There were a lot of questions raised by what we saw,” Halperin said. “It answered some of the questions that have been nagging the family. But it certainly doesn’t put these issues to rest. There are ways this could have been avoided.”

The video police showed Blanding and Halperin began with footage from The Jefferson Hotel, where Peters, a biology teacher at Essex High School, worked part time as a security guard and where his girlfriend said Peters was meeting a co-worker just before the confrontation with police.

Peters was seen acting erratically and running from the hotel’s lobby without clothing, Blanding and Halperin said. Then footage jumps to the officer’s body camera capturing Peters driving into a car at Belvidere and Franklin streets, just blocks from the hotel.

From there, it shows the officer following Peters as he flees north onto Interstate 95/64 from the Chamberlayne Avenue ramp, where he hits two more vehicles.

Halperin said Peters was lying on his back, moving as if making “snow angels” on the interstate, before retreating to a wooded area on the exit ramp. The officer follows him into the brush, they both emerge into the clearing and the shooting erupts.

Halperin said it’s hard to estimate how close Peters is to the officer when he’s shot, but said they were in “fairly close proximity.”

Richmond police have said Nyantakyi was the only officer on the scene, but Halperin said the body camera footage shows a state trooper arrive just before the shooting. He could be an eyewitness, Halperin said.

“The family is not seeking litigation at this time, Halperin said. The attorney said he wanted to consult with an independent policing expert and view other videos of the incident that may be out there before he says whether the officer’s actions were criminal or violated police procedure.

“We’re looking for answers,” he said. “There is talk of trying to change police procedures. … What do we do to change policies so that people that are having mental health issues don’t end up dead?”

The family started a GoFundMe page to help cover legal fees and other support while they seek answers and advocate for more restraint from police officers.

“I’m not satisfied,” Blanding said. “There is nothing that the chief or anybody else can tell me that will change my stance. Marcus needed help, not death.

“This is wrong. What happened is wrong.”