RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Princess Blanding, an activist whose brother Marcus-David Peters was fatally shot by a Richmond police officer in 2018, has taken a step towards a possible run for Virginia governor next year after filing paperwork with the state Monday to establish a campaign committee.
Blanding, who submitted a “statement of organization” with the state’s Department of Elections on Nov. 30, has been active politically since the death of Peters, a high school teacher who was shot as he charged at an officer during an apparent mental health crisis alongside Interstate-95.
She has called for more police accountability and urged Colette McEachin, Richmond’s commonwealth’s attorney, to reopen the case into her brother’s death. McEachin concluded in a report made public in early November that the officer’s decision to use lethal force was justified.
Multiple calls to Ms. Blanding seeking comment about the filing were not answered.
According to police reports, an officer, later identified as Michael Nyantakyi, witnessed Peters’ vehicle strike another car near the intersection of N. Belvidere Street and W. Franklin Street on May 14, 2018. Peters did not stop when Nyantakyi tried to pull him over and hit two other vehicles before coming to a stop in the center of the ramp of Interstate-95 North, police said.
Footage from the incident showed a naked and unarmed Peters run towards the highway and into traffic before being hit by a car. Peters was then seen lying in the right travel lane and rolling over in the road.
“After being struck by the car, Mr. Peters got up immediately, but then laid back down in the travel lane for several seconds where he repeatedly rolled over in a tumbling motion. He then moved to the shoulder of the roadway, where he again laid on the ground moving his arms and legs as if making snow angels,” the report from McEachin stated. “Mr. Peters can be heard talking to himself while he thrashed and rolled on the shoulder of the travel lane. For several seconds, he rolled and tumbled on the pavement. At one point he stopped, laid flat on his back, then sat up suddenly and said ‘I figured it out – I’m living the dream.’ By this point, the officer had already notified DEC that Mr. Peters had been struck, and he had again requested additional units. In his interview, the officer explained that Mr. Peters seemed unaffected by the vehicle impact or the abrasive conditions of the roadway.”
The officer took out his taser while moving closer to check on Peters, who then stood up and eventually said “put that taser down or I’ll kill you” to the officer in the body camera footage. Peters could be heard cursing at Nyantakyi while moving towards him.
Nyantakyi deployed his taser and struck Peters with one prong but it appeared to have no effect, police said. McEachin described her office’s findings on the deadly shooting in the report released Friday.
“Nude and unarmed, Mr. Peters advanced closer and lunged at the officer with his arms extended in what appeared to be an effort to grab him. In his interview, the officer acknowledged that Mr. Peters was unarmed, but he indicated that by this point, it was ‘an all-out fight between the two’ of them to gain control over his firearm,” McEachin wrote. “The officer further explained that he was wary of engaging hand to hand with Mr. Peters because of his erratic behavior, his unresponsiveness to pain, and fear that Mr. Peters might land on top of him. Using his left arm to repel him, the officer explained that he ‘bladed’ his body to shield his firearm from Mr. Peters. As Mr. Peters continued to charge in apparent attack, the officer fired at least twice. It is unclear whether Mr. Peters actually made contact before the shots were fired; although, in the footage he was certainly well within arm’s length.”
Peters fell to the ground after he was shot, eventually standing up and walking towards some bushes in the area before collapsing. He was taken to VCU Health where he died shortly after midnight. The final autopsy report showed Peters had been shot three times, twice in the abdomen and once in the left forearm.
In the wake of his death, Blanding and Peters’ family pushed for an alert system that would require law enforcement officers to be accompanied by health care providers while responding to emergency calls involving people who are experiencing a mental health crisis. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) signed the legislation, which was referred to as the “Marcus Alert” bill, after it was passed by state lawmakers during the special session this summer.
The measure, signed into law the day after McEachin’s office released its report, will require police departments in Virginia to follow protocols in the Marcus Alert System, which will be developed by the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS), by 2026.