GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A prosecutor filed a second-degree murder charge Thursday against the Michigan police officer who killed Patrick Lyoya, a Black man who was on the ground when he was shot in the back of the head following an intense physical struggle recorded on a bystander’s phone.
Chris Becker, Kent County Prosecutor announced the decision against Grand Rapids officer Christopher Schurr. He killed Lyoya just minutes following a traffic stop in April 4. The final moments of terror were captured by a passenger inside the car.
Schurr fired the fatal shot while Lyoya was on the ground, demanding that the 26-year-old refugee from Congo “let go” of the officer’s Taser.
“The death was not justified or excused, for example, by self defense,” the prosecutor said, reciting the elements of second-degree murder.
Continue reading: As Patrick Lyoya’s Family Mourns, African-American and Immigrant Communities Cry Out for Justice Together
Schurr, who is white, told Lyoya that he stopped his car because the license plate didn’t match the vehicle. Roughly a minute later, Lyoya began to run after he was asked to produce a driver’s license.
Schurr quickly caught Schurr and they struggled on a front yard before Schurr fired the fatal shot.
Becker claimed that he sought out experts outside Michigan regarding the possible use of force. He spoke to Lyoya’s parents to inform them about the charge before holding a news conference.
Peter Lyoya in Detroit watched the broadcast with Ven Johnson his lawyer and was satisfied with the result.
“We strongly believed there was no justice in America, until today,” Peter Lyoya said. “What I want is the final justice for my son.”
Another family lawyer, Ben Crump, said the murder charge was the right call, adding: “Officer Schurr must be held accountable.”
Continue reading: Inside Ben Crump’s Quest to Raise the Value of Black Life in America
Becker stated that Schurr surrendered and would appear in court on Friday. The identity of his lawyer wasn’t immediately known. Seven-year-old veteran officer has yet to speak publicly about the incident.
Schurr’s personnel file shows no complaints of excessive force but much praise for traffic stops and foot chases that led to arrests and the seizure of guns and drugs.
Black community activists had accused Becker of being too near to police some weeks back and urged him not to. The prosecutor refused.
“Everybody thinks prosecutors are an arm or just a branch of police. And we’re not,” Becker told reporters. “We are our own entity. The law is our duty. We work a lot with them but we don’t work for them.”
Grand Rapids is a city of approximately 200,000 people, located 160 miles (260 km) west Detroit.
Police Chief Eric Winstrom was previously a Chicago commander before he assumed command in Grand Rapids in March. The incident became an immediate emergency. Over Becker’s objections, he released video from four different sources on April 13.
Winstrom spoke at an April community forum and stated that officers should be able to reduce the stress in stressful situations.
“I guarantee that we can do more,” he said. “Actually, that’s one of the things I’ve already reached out to my colleagues to say, ‘Hey, I need some curriculum, because we are going to beef it up.’”
Continue reading: Two Years After George Floyd’s Murder, Minneapolis Is Still Struggling to Redefine Policing
Lyoya’s death by an officer came after numerous others in recent years involving Black people, including George Floyd, whose death in Minneapolis sparked a national reckoning on race; Daunte Wright, who was shot during a traffic stop in suburban Minneapolis; Andre Hill, who was killed in Columbus, Ohio; and Andrew Brown Jr., who was killed in North Carolina.
White contributed to this report from Detroit. Corey Williams also contributed.
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