A police officer who shot and killed a naked, unarmed man earlier this year won’t face criminal charges, prosecutors in Virginia announced.
Officer Michael Nyantakyi shot and killed 24-year-old high school biology teacher Marcus-David Peters on the shoulder of Interstate 95/64 in Richmond on May 14. Peters was naked and acted erratically and, at times, threateningly, according to body camera footage.
“I don’t know how it could have been done any differently by the officer,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Herring told reporters on Friday. “The officer couldn’t stand by and let Mr. Peters continue to break down on 95.”
Peters’ family has called the shooting unjustified and decried the government’s response. His sister, Princess Blanding, organized a protest Friday outside the John Marshall Courts Building in Richmond.
“Michael Herring’s decision to declare the killing of Marcus-David Peters a ‘justifiable homicide’ follows a chilling pattern for the city of Richmond, state of Virginia, and this nation to make public what we have known for hundreds of years: people with power value racist systems over Black and Brown lives,” Blanding said in a statement.
Peters was black, as is Nyantakyi.
At one point in the body camera footage, Peters ventures into traffic on the interstate and gets hit by a car before rolling into one of the lanes and appearing to make “snow angels,” body camera footage showed. Nyantakyi tried to use his Taser on Peters before firing his sidearm, according to police, but it didn’t deploy properly.
Nyantakyi fired two shots that struck Peters in the left forearm and in the abdomen, according to a report that Herring and Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney LaToya Croxton released Friday.
The report found that Peters was on marijuana and the stimulant Ritalin, for which he did not have a prescription, at the time of the shooting. His threatening movements toward Nyantakyi and his apparent disregard for pain made him a risk to Nyantakyi and the public, the report said. It also claimed Peters was acting erratically in the days leading up to the incident.
“A reasonable officer in this scenario would have believed that Peters was capable of overcoming the officer, taking control of the firearm and using it to harm the officer and others,” the report read. “Thus, the totality of the circumstances tragically warranted the use of lethal force.”
Peters family has challenged that story, saying their loved one was not on drugs when the shooting happened and had been acting normally in the days before.
“Elected officials, appointed officials and police departments will find every reason to refuse accountability and justify their violence against our communities,” Blanding said.