RICHMOND, Va. (AP/WRIC) – The mother of an unarmed hit-and-run suspect who ran naked onto an interstate highway and was fatally shot by a police officer says the behavior described by police was completely out of character for her son.
Marcus-David Peters died early Tuesday after suffering two gunshot wounds to the abdomen. The manner of death has been ruled a homicide, according to the Chief Medical Examiner’s office.
Peters was a science teacher at Essex County High School who graduated with honors from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Photos inside the school show a memorial, including flowers and posters, outside of Peters’ classroom.
On Wednesday, Essex County Public Schools issued the following statement:
On Monday, Essex County Public Schools experienced a tragedy with the loss of a high school teacher, Mr. Marcus Peters. We are profoundly saddened by this loss and extend our deepest condolences to his family, colleagues, and friends.
To help our students and employees during this difficult time, we are providing grief counselors and other supports to them. Because this is a police investigation, we will not be able to provide further details. Please be reminded that reporters are not allowed on school campuses without advance permission from my office or the school principal. Thank you.
Richmond police said an officer saw Peters strike a vehicle and then flee. The officer pursued him onto Interstate 95, where police say his car hit two more vehicles and went off the road.
Police say Peters ran naked onto the highway before he “charged” the officer. They said the officer shot at Peters after a stun gun “proved ineffective.”
Peters’ mother, Barbara Peters, said that behavior “was not who my son was.”
Saidu Tejan-Thomas quickly became friends with Peters after both attended VCU.
“He handled everything so well but the one time something goes wrong for him that he can’t handle he ends up dead for it,” Tejan-Thomas told 8News, “and that’s what feels like the greatest injustice in all of this.”
Tejan-Thomas told 8News that he believes answers are needed from Richmond Police.
“What is the threat and why is the answer to that question a black man? And why is your solution to that perceived threat killing him?” Tejan-Thomas wondered.
Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham addressed the officer-involved shooting on Tuesday, saying his was ‘deeply affected’ by Monday’s deadly encounter but believed his officers’ actions were justified.
“We are all deeply affected by what happened here – by the loss of life,” Chief Durham said. “Our officers do not take the use of deadly force lightly. I think it’s important to remember that being naked does not remove a threat.
“So far, the eyewitness accounts we’ve heard have been consistent: our officer tried using verbal commands, then used non-lethal force first by deploying his Taser before using his service weapon.”
8News spoke with a former Chesterfield Police Captain about the shooting and what goes through an officers’ mind during times of possible danger.
“Police officers have no way of knowing exactly who they are dealing with,” retired Chesterfield County Police Captain Steve Neal said. “When they come upon a situation this is a stranger to them and they have to assess and make their decision based on what they see.”
Stay with 8News for updates.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report