RICHMOND, Va. – A 24-year-old high school biology teacher whose family said he taught children to reach for the stars, but whose sky, somehow –without explanation, the family says – crashed down on the fateful day he swiped a car, led police on a chase and wound up naked on an interstate as he charged at an officer.
A veteran, black male officer with the Richmond Police Department for 10 years, was alone on an interstate at rush hour as he tried to subdue a naked suspect who police said acted aggressively. An unarmed suspect who police said did not heed verbal commands and who had just taken 1,200 volts of energy from a Taser but still charged the officer, who next fired his service weapon.
Two people who tangled in an incident that will be scrutinized by attorneys, family, law enforcement, social media, and even the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Marcus-David Lamar Peters was transported to the hospital, where he later died from his gunshot wound; his family hopes to see his legacy live.
Officer Michael Nyantakyi was placed on paid administrative leave, per standard operating procedure.
In a move meant to foster trust and transparency, Chief Alfred Durham allowed family members to watch the body camera footage of the interstate altercation.
On Wednesday, Peters' sister Princess Blanding thanked the chief for the opportunity, then spoke to reporters outside the station after she viewed the video with her uncle.
"Our stance has not changed, Marcus did not deserve to be killed, Marcus deserved help," Blanding said. "He was very clearly in distress, major distress and he needed help, not death."
“There is no question that Marcus was having a mental health episode and the officer recognized that. The issue is what should`ve been done at that moment of recognition for work, that`s what we are going to investigate,” said family attorney Jonathan Helperin.
Blanding said she will “fight for justice and reformation” and said the main question to come out of the video is what can be done to avoid this from happening again.
“Our officers, not just in Richmond, not just in the state of Virginia, but nationwide, have to be trained in a different manner, they need better tools in their toolkit,’ she said. “The answer can’t always be that ‘I have a gun and I’m gonna go for the gun.’”
“I will continue to forge forward and stressing that we need other options,” she said.
Blanding teared up as talked about her brother, who she said she had never seen have any type of mental health issue.
“Marcus David Lamar Peters was a wonderful brother, uncle, mentor, teacher, son,” as she swallowed tears. “It meant the world to Marcus to be with his family.”
She is still trying to piece together the events of that day.
Blanding said her brother taught biology at Essex High School where she works as an administrator.
"I was looking for him at the end of the day, and I couldn't find him, and I went up to his room multiple times, and he wasn't there," Blanding said.
She said she believed he left the school around 4 p.m. and went to the home he shared with his girlfriend.
"She did say that he had come home briefly, they had spoken, greeted each other and he told her he needed to go to the Jefferson. He was due to come back home to return a textbook," Blanding said.
The girlfriend told CBS 6 reporter Melissa Hipolit that Peters told her he loved her and would be back, he just needed to talk to a co-worker at The Jefferson Hotel, where he worked security on weekends.
"Nobody has told us what has transpired during the time he was at The Jefferson Hotel. There's a lot of unanswered questions and missing puzzle pieces that we will continue to fight for," Blanding said.
Sources told CBS 6 Peters arrived at The Jefferson without a shirt and was acting strange and disorderly.
They said police were called but before they arrived Peters left the hotel, took off his clothes, got in his car, and drove off.
Richmond Police will hold a news conference to share the video with the media and review the Department’s policies and training covering the use of deadly force.
“I want to clear the air and set the record straight,” Chief Durham said. “There is so much misinformation out there right now. The facts are what should matter, here.”
“The Richmond Police Department has worked hard to develop trust with the community,” he added. “I hope that by releasing this video we can maintain that positive relationship.”
A date and time for the news conference will be scheduled soon.