GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The week before he was shot and killed by a police officer, Patrick Lyoya moved in to a new apartment in Grand Rapids.
His cousin, Prosper Latunda, said the move was part of Lyoya’s efforts to better himself.
“(He said), ‘I wanna buy something good,'” Latunda recalled, speaking to News 8 Thursday. “Start over. Renew his life.”
Lyoya died April 4. Video released by the Grand Rapids Police Department shows the officer pulling him over. There was a struggle that included Lyoya grabbing the officer’s Taser. The officer, who was atop Lyoya as the two struggled, shot him once in the head, killing him.
“I still don’t believe that he’s gone,” Latunda said. “I still feel like he’s still alive. I can’t believe, even if they say he’s dead, to me, I feel like, ‘No, they’re lying.'”
Lyoya was 26 and had two young daughters. He worked two jobs at an automotive parts factory and as a DoorDash driver. Latunda said he was saving money to send to family in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which Lyoya fled several years ago.
“They just cut his dream,” Lyoya said. “His dream now is gone. Nobody gonna know his dream no more. We’re just gonna talk about it, but nobody gonna do it.”
Latunda said Patrick had a good heart and it hurts to see people judge him.
“You can’t judge a person just by looking,” Latunda said.
Nor, he said, can you judge based on past mistakes. An arrest warrant for a domestic violence charge had been signed for Lyoya April 1, and he had been previously convicted of domestic violence, and operating while intoxicated. Michigan State Police records show three arrests related to stolen property, including at least one involving a stolen vehicle.
Latunda said no matter what Lyoya’s criminal history shows, it’s what the video of the shooting shows that matters.
“Watch the video,” Latunda said. “You can be arrested a hundred times … still they can’t kill you. ‘Cause they don’t know your plan. Maybe your plan was to change right away.”
“People,” he continued, “they change.”
Lyoya’s funeral is Friday.