Video released of Mich. officer shooting unarmed Black man

Race in America

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (NewsNation) — Video released Wednesday shows the fatal shooting of an unarmed Black motorist by a Michigan officer.

The footage of the April 4 shooting shows a Grand Rapids police officer struggling with 26-year-old immigrant Patrick Lyoya before fatally shooting him from behind while he was 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.

High-profile civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, who has represented the families of other Black people killed by police, tweeted that he will join the Lyoya’s family at a news conference Thursday afternoon to address the video release.

“The video clearly shows that this was an unnecessary, excessive, and fatal use of force against an unarmed Black man who was confused by the encounter and terrified for his life,” Crump wrote in the statement. “It should be noted that Patrick never used violence against this officer even though the officer used violence against him in several instances for what was a misdemeanor traffic stop.”

Local officials say Lyoya fought with the officer after his car was stopped because of an issue with the license plate. No other details have been released. State Police are investigating the shooting.

Video shows Lyoya running from the scene after an officer stopped him for a license plate violation. They struggled on the front lawn of a few homes in a Grand Rapids neighborhood.

Before the videos were released, City Manager Mark Washington warned they would lead to public “expressions of shock, of anger and of pain.”

“The video contains strong language as well as graphic images (of actions) resulting in the loss of life. Viewer discretion is advised,” said Grand Rapids police Chief Eric Winstrom, a former high-ranking officer in Chicago.

Kent County’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Stephen Cohle, said he completed the autopsy on the day of Lyoya’s death, but toxicology results haven’t been publicly released. He said the full report would not be released until State Police complete an investigation.

“This is the standard operating procedure,” Cohle said.

More than 100 people marched to Grand Rapids City Hall before a City Commission meeting Tuesday night, chanting “Black lives matter” and “No justice, no peace.” Hundreds of protesters took to the streets again Wednesday, following the release of the videos, NewsNation’s Grand Rapids affiliate reported.

“No protests at this time. We don’t want violence out there. We want to avoid any violence,” the Lyoya family told NewsNation affiliate WOOD-TV.

“Our hearts are with Patrick Lyoya’s family and the Grand Rapids community, who are dealing with unimaginable pain and loss,” Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer tweeted. In a statement, she went on to say she went on to describe Lyoya as a “son, a dad of two young daughters and an older brother to his five siblings,” who came to the United States with his family as a refugee fleeing violence.

Some have come to the officer’s defense. Ret. police commander TJ Smith told NewsNation the shooting was “lawful but awful.”

“Once the individual grabbed the taser that started changing the game,” Smith said. “If he gets ahold of that taser, he could incapacitate the officer… It’s called less-lethal, not non-lethal.”

As in many U.S. cities, Grand Rapids police have been occasionally criticized over the use of force, particularly against Black people, who make up 18% of the population.

In November, the Michigan Supreme Court heard arguments in a lawsuit over the practice of photographing and fingerprinting people who were never charged with a crime. Grand Rapids said the policy changed in 2015.

A downtown street has been designated Breonna Taylor Way, named for the Black woman and Grand Rapids native who was killed by police in Louisville, Kentucky, during a botched drug raid in 2020.

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