GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids Police Department Chief Eric Winstrom said his review of his new department’s training and procedures will be influenced by the shooting of Patrick Lyoya.
Winstrom made his statements while addressing the City Commission on Tuesday. The former Chicago Police Department commander said he started reviewing training, procedures and recruiting not long after he took over as GRPD’s chief in early March and before Lyoya died April 4.
Brandon Davis, the director of the city’s Office of Oversight and Public Accountability, also addressed commissioners, saying he is already reviewing some policies on police shootings, including the release of video and involved officers’ names.
Davis said he is waiting on Michigan State Police to wrap up its investigation of the shooting. MSP will send its case to Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker, who will decide whether the shooting was justified or whether charges are warranted.
During a news conference in front of the building that houses the prosecutor’s office, the Greater Grand Rapids NAACP called on Becker to recuse himself from the case and let Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel take over, saying that “the historical relationship between the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office and the Grand Rapids Police Department” means that “a fair and unbiased investigation cannot occur.”
“Fundamentally, there are too many conflicts of interest,” Greater Grand Rapids NAACP President Cle Jackson said.
Jackson said his call has nothing to do with his opinion of Becker or his office, but said that Becker rescuing himself would simply be “the right thing to do.”
Becker has indicated that he has no intention to pass the case off to the state AG and said he will make the decision on charges. In statement sent out to media as the press conference was still ongoing, Becker reiterated that stance and said there is no conflict of interest.
“The Kent County Prosecutor’s Office must recuse itself from a case if there is ‘a conflict of interest.’ MCL 49.160. A conflict of interest exists where the prosecutor has a prior attorney-client relationship with the person, or where the prosecutor has a personal interest (financial or emotional) in the litigation, or has some personal relationship (kinship, friendship, or animosity) with the accused or other party. People v Doyle, 159 Mich App 632, 641 (1987). Because I do not know Officer Christopher Schurr, nor did I know Patrick Lyoya, the legal standard for recusal has not been met. I will continue to follow the law regarding this investigation, and I will wait for the report from the Michigan State Police to review the case in light of the law and the facts.”Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker
Jackson said he presented his request straight to Becker earlier Tuesday and that Becker stressed that he had been elected to his office to handle decisions like this.
There is no timetable for when MSP will finish its investigation or when the prosecutor will make his decision.
The MSP investigation is separate from GRPD’s internal affairs investigation.
Also separately, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights has called on the U.S. Department of Justice to help complete an investigation of whether GRPD has engaged in systemic discrimination that was started in 2019. Lyoya’s family and activist Rev. Al Sharpton have also called for a federal civil rights investigation. While the city is aware of those called, leaders said Tuesday they have not received notice of any pending federal investigation.
The shooting happened April 4 after GRPD Officer Chris Schurr pulled Lyoya, 26, over on the city’s Southeast side. Video released by GRPD shows that there was a struggle that included Lyoya grabbing Schurr’s Taser. Schurr, who was atop Lyoya as the two struggled, shot him once in the head, killing him.
Winstrom confirmed the name of the officer Monday. GRPD generally does not release the names of employees under investigation nor the names of people who have not been charged with a crime, but Winstrom said he did it in this case “in the interest of transparency, to reduce on-going speculation, and to avoid any further confusion.”
News 8 typically does not name suspects before they are charged and arraigned. We are releasing Schurr’s name in this case because GRPD did so in light of this high-profile case.
The NAACP also called on Winstrom to fire Schurr immediately and take steps to ensure he can never be a police officer in Michigan again.
—News 8’s Joe LaFurgey contributed to this report.