GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapids Association of Pastors is calling on city, county and state leaders to make changes following the death of Patrick Lyoya.

The 26-year-old Congolese refugee was shot and killed April 4 by a Grand Rapids police officer during a traffic stop. Pastors in Grand Rapids say as soon as they learned of the shooting, they met to discuss how they can effect change. Since that meeting, more than 70 pastors have signed a letter outlining several calls to action.

The Grand Rapids Association of Pastors announces Call for Justice Sunday to urge charges against a police officer in the death of Patrick Lyoya. (June 1, 2022)
The Grand Rapids Association of Pastors calls for justice for Patrick Lyoya. (June 1, 2022)

Pastors met at Grace Christian Reformed Church Wednesday afternoon for a press conference to read the letter aloud. The pastors also called on other community faith leaders to use this upcoming Sunday, which marks the Christian holiday of Pentecost, to call attention to the case.

“To everything there is a time and a season. This is a time for anger,” Rev. Christy Lipscomb of City Life Church said. “We, ministers of Christian churches in Grand Rapids, call for accountability for the killing of Patrick Lyoya. Black residents of Grand Rapids and all people of color in this community need to feel safe.”

In the letter, G-RAP laid out five demands that it hopes will help the Lyoya family get a fair and unbiased review in the investigation and for future reforms. The demands, listed below, were similar to those made by the NAACP, ACLU and Urban League.

After the letter was read, a handful of pastors sat at a table and spoke further about the need to act.

“We came here to find rest, to find true ‘shalom,’ to be able to sleep and enjoy life and see our children thrive,” Pastor John Mondi with African Community Fellowship Christian Reformed Church said as he spoke about the African immigrant experience. “Through the death of Lyoya came the retraumatization: Whose child is going to be next?”

The pastors say they have done this work for years following unsavory police interactions but are now turning up the heat, making sure their voices are heard.

“During times of election, politicians want to come to our churches to advocate their position and we want to be very clear: Do not come and ask us for our vote if you’re not putting police reform on the table,” Pastor Jathan Austin of Bethel Empowerment Church said. “Patrick’s blood spilled in the streets of Grand Rapids, I believe, has fueled the passion to say we’re not stopping until real change has come and we’re going to do it together this time. It’s not just isolated voices, it’s a sound from Grand Rapids that is echoing through this community: ‘We’re not taking it anymore.'”

The pastors say they have been meeting with the police chief and other leaders and intend to keep doing so until everyone in the community feels safe.

“This is about life and death and we are adamantly for life for every human being in the limits in the city and so what we might otherwise be numb to or told to accept, we’re here to say one life lost is far too many,” Pastor Peter TeWinkle of Oakdale Park Church said.

Asked for an update Wednesday, Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said that after waiting several weeks, he received the reports from the bodycam and Taser manufacturing company last week. There is still no timeline on when he will make a decision on whether the shooting was justified or whether charges are warranted.