Michigan Officer Charged with Murder in Shooting Death of Patrick Lyoya Following Traffic Stop

Police officer Christopher Schurr could face up to life in prison if convicted, Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said during a press conference Thursday

Patrick Lyoya
Photo: AP/Shutterstock

A Michigan prosecutor announced second degree murder charges in the death of Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old Black man who was fatally shot in the head by a Grand Rapids police officer, Christopher Schurr, during a traffic stop on the morning of April 4.

"I have made the decision to charge Christopher Schurr with one count of second degree murder," Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said during a press conference Thursday. "Second degree murder is a felony offense. It's punishable by up to life in prison with the possibility of parole."

Becker told reporters that Schurr had turned himself in at the time of the announcement and that he would be arraigned at some point on Friday in the 61st District Court in Grand Rapids.

Becker said a felony firearms charge, which often accompanies a murder charge when such a weapon is used in the alleged crime, is not applicable because of a state law that prevents it in cases of officers using deadly force.

Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom previously decided to identify Schurr, who is white, as the officer involved in the shooting. The decision, he said, was made "in the interest of transparency, to reduce ongoing speculation, and to avoid any further confusion," CNN reported in April.

At the time of the traffic stop, Lyoya, an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, had a revoked license due to drug convictions as well as outstanding warrants, though it's unclear whether Schurr was aware of either.

Autopsy results showed his blood-alcohol levels were more than three times the legal limit, according to CNN.

During a press conference 10 days after the shooting, Winstrom presented video footage of the traffic stop when Lyoya was pulled over in a residential neighborhood for improper vehicle registration, according to authorities.

Footage showed Lyoya, seemingly confused, exiting the vehicle before the officer told him to get back in and asked if he speaks English. Lyoya responded that he did speak English and asked what he did wrong. Following a brief exchange between the two, the officer grabbed Lyoya's shoulder and Lyoya quickly pulled away and ran.

The video then showed the officer tackling Lyoya to the ground and telling him to "stop resisting."

As Lyoya got up, the officer fired his taser and could be heard saying, "Let go of the taser." Winstrom said in April the taser was fired twice but it did not hit anyone.

The officer's body camera was then deactivated. According to Winstrom, the body camera — which can be turned off by pressing a button for three seconds — was likely deactivated due to pressure during the struggle, though it is unknown if it was turned off intentionally.

Other cameras in the area captured additional moments of the incident, including the police officer's vehicle, a witness' cellphone, and a nearby doorbell camera. Shortly after, the cell phone footage shows the officer on top of Lyoya, who was face down on the ground, when the fatal shot was heard.

The police chief said Lyoya was shot in the head.

Following the release of the footage, protests were held near police headquarters on behalf of Lyoya, with social media clips showing members of the community marching and chanting "Black Lives Matter" and "Justice for Patrick."

Becker said he notified Lyoya's family by phone before announcing the charge to the public. He added that he shared a letter written in Swahili so the family could understand the charges. Lyoya is an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

"They said, thank you. It was a very brief phone call," Becker said, thanking the family for "their tremendous patience and understanding as this process has developed" and acknowledged the "emotions they must be going through."

"I deeply appreciate what they've done," he added, including for "their calls for peace and calm."

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