A Black man facedown on the ground was fatally shot in the back of the head by a Grand Rapids police officer, the violent climax of a traffic stop, brief foot chase and struggle over a stun gun, according to videos of the April 4 incident released Wednesday.
The release by Grand Rapids police sparked renewed protests and calls for justice Wednesday, and state officials promised a full investigation.
It comes in the wake of other police-involved shootings in Grand Rapids.
The video released Wednesday includes footage from the unnamed officer’s body camera, which was deactivated shortly after the officer told the suspect, 26-year-old Congolese refugee Patrick Lyoya, to “let go of the Taser.”
The video, a collection of dashcam footage, body cam footage, a home security camera, and a cellphone video, shows the unnamed officer pulling over Lyoya and a passenger for a “license plate that doesn’t match the car.”
Lyoya gets out of the car, and the officer gets out and tells him to get back in the car. The officer asks for his driver’s license and then asks whether Lyoya speaks English.
Grand Rapids police shooting:Protesters call for accountability following release of video
Lyoya then appears to run around the car, and the officer chases and tackles him to the ground on the front lawn of a house.
They struggle, and the officer can be heard telling Lyoya to “stop” and to “let go of the Taser.”
After about 90 seconds, the officer is lying on top of Lyoya, who is facedown on the ground. The officer, still yelling for Lyoya to “let go of the Taser,” proceeds to shoot him.
Lyoya was shot in the head, police Chief Eric Winstrom confirmed.
Winstrom said the Taser was deployed twice but did not make contact.
The Grand Rapids police officer shot Lyoya near Nelson Avenue and Griggs Street.
According to Secretary of State records, a person with the same name has a revoked driver’s license.
At Wednesday’s news conference at which the video was released, City Manager Mark Washington said the city is “determined to get this right … our community deserves answers.”
The Lyoya family lawyer, Ben Crump, released a statement demanding the officer be terminated, arrested and prosecuted for what he called use of excessive force and the “violent killing of Patrick Lyoya.”
“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 said. “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.”
Winstrom said the officer is on paid leave and stripped of his police powers pending the outcome of the Michigan State Police investigation.
Michigan State Police were asked to handle the investigation immediately after it happened, said spokeswoman Lt. Michelle Robinson.
“This is going to be one of our top priorities so that we have the investigation completed in a timely manner,” Robinson said.
She couldn’t say how long that will take.
Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker hasn’t brought any charges against the unidentified officer.
In a statement after the video was released, Becker called for patience while the investigation is ongoing.
“This is an extremely critical incident, and one that everyone involved in the investigation is taking very seriously,” he said. “The Michigan State Police are doing everything they can to complete the investigation in a timely manner, however it takes time to carefully gather the evidence.
“We do not have all of the evidence for review. I don’t have an opportunity to review a case until I have all the evidence.”
Winstrom said Becker was not at the news conference Wednesday to “protect the integrity of the investigation.”
Winstrom added he has not spoken with Becker for the investigation.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement her heart is with Lyoya’s family, who are all dealing with “unimaginable pain and loss.”
“Patrick was 26,” Whitmer said. “He arrived in the United States as a refugee with his family fleeing violence. He had his whole life ahead of him. Patrick was a son, a dad of two young daughters, and an older brother to his five siblings.”
Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II said he is heartbroken as a father, public servant and Black man. Every interaction within the community, Gilchrist said, should end with everyone able to return home to their families without harm — especially when it involves law enforcement.
“Black people in Grand Rapids, in Michigan, and across the country are mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted from generations of struggle,” he said. “Yet we press on. When we demonstrate and make our voices heard, we must do so in a way that lifts our call for justice beyond the deepening the pain of this community. We must never cease our efforts to reverse inequities, create systemic change, and guarantee justice for communities of color.”
Hundreds of protesters have swarmed the streets since the shooting, calling for accountability and justice for Lyoya.
On Tuesday evening, more than 100 people marched to the City Commission meeting to demand action from city officials, citing a history of police brutality.
“We’re going on three years, we have went to every single commission meeting, protested, marched and did petitions telling these city officials numerous times that GRPD is on a power trip, and if they don’t start holding them accountable, another Black person was going to be killed at the hands of the police,” one public commenter who identified herself only as Chelsea, said during a Tuesday city commission meeting.
Public commenters spoke for 3½ hours Tuesday, calling for police accountability.
Crump, a civil rights attorney who previously represented the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, is representing Lyoya’s family. Local pastors, Kent County Commissioner Robert Womack and Crump held a forum discussing the shooting on Sunday.
Lyoya’s shooting is the latest incident involving GRPD to spark outcry over racial injustice.
In December 2017, 11-year-old Honestie Hodges was placed in handcuffs by a GRPD officer, as police searched for one of her aunts suspected in a stabbing.
In November 2019, the Grand Rapids city commission reached a $190,000 settlement with Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, a Latino American war veteran who was wrongfully detained by federal immigration officials. Ramos-Gomez, who was born in the U.S., was held for three days by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in December 2018.
A GRPD captain served a 20-hour, unpaid suspension for violating department policy when he notified ICE of Ramos-Gomez’s arrest.
In 2021, a GRPD officer unintentionally fired a round into a home after slipping. Police were following a car they believed to be stolen, although it ultimately was not the car they were looking for. As officers moved in on the car’s driver, a Black man, after he exited the vehicle, an officer slipped and fired a round, which hit the driver’s home. No one was struck by the bullet.
Becker charged the officer with careless discharge of a firearm resulting in property damage, a misdemeanor, in January.
The Associated Press contributed to this report..
Contact Emma Stein: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @_emmastein.