East Lansing’s Independent Police Oversight Commission passed a motion advising Chief Kim Johnson of the East Lansing Police Department to release police video footage of the officer-involved shooting at the Lake Lansing Meijer on April 25, within seven days at the Commission’s emergency meeting last evening.
The meeting on Thursday, April 28, publicly noticed on Wednesday and later announced in a press release on Thursday, was attended by over 50 community members, including family members of the 20-year-old man shot by two ELPD officers at the Meijer.
Johnson reiterated ELPD’s earlier statement on the incident, reading prepared comments about the events and stating that the police “intend to be as transparent as possible” as the Michigan State Police (MSP) carry out the initial investigation into the shooting.
Commissioners pressed Johnson on his statement, on other information ELPD has on what happened on the scene at Meijer, and on the current course of the investigation.
Commissioner Robin Etchison questioned why ELPD was even at Meijer, citing Michigan laws that allow people to carry guns openly. “On the surface, there were no laws broken,” Etchison said.
Other commissioners question ELPD policies on appropriate use of force, pointing out that the shooting may have been a violation of ELPD’s own policy.
“Why are we waiting?” Commissioner Kath Edsall argued, wondering why the two ELPD officers placed on paid leave were not fired if they violated ELPD policy.
Johnson held firm on ELPD’s initial statement, continuously stating his hopes for a “fair and impartial” investigation carried out by MSP – an investigation he didn’t want to compromise by releasing too much information, including video footage, prematurely.
Public comment focused on ELPD accountability and transparency
Fifteen people spoke during public comment and many addressed Johnson directly with pleas for transparency during the investigatory process and the immediate release of whatever video footage the police have on the incident.
Monica Fink, Secretary of the East Lansing Public Schools Board of Education, urged ELPD to be transparent, arguing that their unwillingness to do so “chips away” at all of the work others who represent the City and community do for East Lansing.
“Let’s remember what we promised and let’s do to the right thing,” Fink said during her comment.
“You’re letting us down, man,” another community member said, addressing Johnson. Looking to both Johnson and Mayor Ron Bacon, as Black leaders in East Lansing, he added, “The people who are getting shot look like you.”
Other commenters also pointed out racial disparities in national and local policing, and their hopes that Johnson and ELPD could work to make systemic changes to policies and police behavior.
Several family members of the individual shot by the police also addressed Johnson and the Commission, wanting answers from Johnson about how ELPD handled the situation at Meijer and calling for the release of video footage.
Charity VanAtten, aunt of the person shot by police, said she was waiting for ELPD to do “what should be done” and release the unedited videos, videos Johnson claimed he had not yet personally seen.
“You haven’t watched the videos? And you’re their boss?” VanAtten told Johnson. “How dare you.”
The Commission’s next meeting will take place on May 9, where they plan to continue their discussion on the shooting.