Family, attorney call for justice in Michigan police shooting

Race in America

(NewsNation) — Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump said the Grand Rapids police officer who fatally shot an unarmed Black immigrant needs to be fired and charged.

Video released Wednesday shows Patrick Lyoya, 26, being shot by the officer April 4. Footage shows the officer, who has not yet been identified, struggling with Lyoya before fatally shooting him from behind while on the ground.

Police in Grand Rapids, Michigan released four videos, including cellphone footage showing the shooting that was recorded by a passenger in Lyoya’s car.

Crump, who has represented the families of other Black people killed by police, said the officer could have done much more to avoid shooting Lyoya.

“This officer failed to follow the basic training,” he said at an emotional news conference. “This could have ended so differently.”

Former police officer and use of force expert Seth Stoughton said on NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” that the footage released was not enough to determine whether the officer’s actions were criminal.

Peter Lyoya holds up a picture of his son Patrick Lyoya, 26, in his home in Lansing, Mich., April 14, 2022. Patrick was face-down on the ground when he was fatally shot in the head by a Grand Rapids Police officer after resisting arrest on April 4, 2022. Grand Rapids police released four videos from different sources Wednesday, nine days after Patrick Lyoya was killed during a traffic stop. Prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump and Lyoya’s family are planning to hold a news conference Thursday afternoon. (AP Photo/Anna Nichols)

Key to the case will be the officer’s Taser at the time of the shooting, Stoughton said.

During the video, it appears as if Lyoya tries to grab the officers Taser, which was fired twice into the ground. If the Taser posed a threat of death or great bodily harm to the officer, it may play a role in deciding if the officer’s actions were criminal, Stoughton said.

Because the Taser was fired twice, it was ineffective without being reloaded, Crump argued.

“There was no reason for him to have any intimate fear of the Taser being used against him,” he said of the officer.

However, a Taser can still deliver a shock after the two cartridges are spent if a person holds it against someone and fires. What is known as a “drive stun” does not incapacitate the person but does hurt, according to Andrew J. Scott III, an expert in police practices and procedures and a former police chief in Boca Raton, Florida.

Local officials said Lyoya had his car stopped because of an issue with a license plate. State police are investigating the shooting.

“It was a traffic stop,” Crump said. “Think about it. This wasn’t a felony offense. This wasn’t even a moving violation.”

Full body camera footage of the incident is not available because the officer’s camera was switched off during the struggle, according the Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom.

Winstrom said it appeared the camera was deactivated unintentionally due to body pressure during the struggle. A button on the camera must be held for three seconds to be switched off.

Peter Lyoya, Patrick Lyoya’s father, who brought his six children from Congo in 2014 to escape violence, said through a translator that he is heartbroken to see it happen in the United States.

“My life was Patrick, my son,” Peter Lyoya said. “You see my son has been killed like an animal by this police officer. … I’m asking for justice for Patrick.”

Lyoya’s family is asking Winstrom to release the name of the officer, a seven-year veteran of the force who is currently on paid leave while state police investigate the incident.

“This is the person that took our beloved one,” Peter Lyoya said.

More than 100 people marched to Grand Rapids City Hall ahead of a city commission meeting Tuesday night, and hundreds of protesters took to the streets again Wednesday after the video was released, NewsNation local affiliate WOOD said. The march included a moment of silence for Lyoya.

Demonstrators said the officer escalated the situation and called for him to be arrested, WOOD reported.

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