EAST LANSING, Mich. — The officers involved in the Lake Lansing Road Meijer shooting on April 25 have been identified in a use-of-force report to the East Lansing Independent Police Oversight Commission.
Officers Jose Viera and Jim Menser are listed in the report as the two officers who discharged their guns at the scene. Officer Jeff Horn is also in the report, listed as displaying his weapon.
Only two officers were placed on paid administrative leave from the department.
Attorney Mike Nichols confirmed one of those officers was Viera, who has been with the East Lansing Police Department since March of 2020. Nichols said he remembers one of the first things Viera said to him when they met.
“He said, 'Mr. Nichols, I want to know two things. I want to make sure my wife was okay and I want to make sure that young man who was shot is going to be okay,'” Nichols said.
On April 25, four East Lansing police officers were dispatched to the Lake Lansing Road Meijer after a caller reported seeing a man walk into the store with a gun.
“In a setting like Meijer, the police officers have got to make at least contact with that individual and that's the key. They need to at least go find him and figure out what was going on,” Nichols said.
Officers located the man, chased him out of the store into the parking lot and one officer yelled he saw the suspect reaching for a gun.
“I don't know if this is a gun, for sure, but it looks like it could be a gun," Nichols said. "That's a public safety threat to the public, as well as to the officers.”
Officers then shot eight times, two shots hit 21 year-old DeAnthony VanAtten. When officers handcuffed VanAtten, they didn't find a gun on him, but later found a gun under a car. Video footage doesn't make it clear if the gun belonged to VanAtten, but Nichols said he thinks it did.
“As he ducks down between the cars, the officers can't see him clearly because he's down between the cars and if he's sliding and gun down there, they don't know it," Nichols said. "So within a few seconds, he gets back up and starts running again. They have no idea that he's hidden his gun away.”
Nichols said he believes the officers had to act in a matter of protecting the public and believes his client will be cleared of wrongdoing.
“They have to decide, you know, do I have the option to chase him? Do I have the option to keep yelling commands that so far have been fruitless? Decisions that have to be made in the blink of an eye about protecting the public," Nichols said. "That's what I believe happened and that's what I believe the facts are going to show and I'm pretty confident that these officers will be exonerated as they should be.”
The release of the officers names comes after Chief Kim Johnson declined to release them until after the investigation by Michigan State Police was complete.
Black Live Matter of Lansing activists have called for the officers involved to be fired and prosecuted for the shooting.
In the meantime, Nichols hopes there will be more transparency from the police department.
“I'm glad that the commission directed the department to make sure that the interior videos from Meijer are released," Nichols said. "I'd love for everything to be released. I don't necessarily like that my clients name is out there, but it is what it is and we were ready for it.”
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