GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Police are investigating after bricks with messages angry over the police killing of Patrick Lyoya and demands to defund the Grand Rapids Police Department were found at city leaders’ properties overnight.
In a news release Tuesday morning, the police department said it’s “aware of multiple instances of vandalism that occurred overnight targeting City Commissioners’ private residences.” Investigators said they were reviewing security camera footage and looking to speak to any witnesses.
News 8 crews learned of graffiti or bricks at or near the properties of at least five city officials: Commissioners Senita Lenear, Nathaniel Moody, Jon O’Connor and Kurt Reppart and Mayor Rosalynn Bliss.
At O’Conner’s house, “DEFUND GRPD” and “ABOLISH POLICE” were spray-painted on the driveway. A brick wrapped in a newspaper clipping with the name of Patrick Lyoya circled and “BLOOD IS ON YOUR HANDS!” written on it was found in the yard.
CITY LEADERS RESPOND
“I have no problem with people protesting. I believe that everybody has a right to protest. But I also believe that’s when you begin to take it personal by coming to someone’s residents, you crossed the line,” Moody said of the Monday night vandalism. “I think that line could be very dangerous at times, because if you were to vandalize the wrong home, there’s a strong possibility that the induvial who lives in that home could be in a position where he or she, thinking that their home is being attacked could retaliate. And I think that’s the problem that we have to be careful of.”
In a statement Tuesday morning, Bliss said she was “disappointed in these most recent incidents of vandalism” and called for “respectful engagement” to “reach thoughtful solutions” about police reform.
“While I understand people’s frustration and anger, acts of violence and vandalism doesn’t get us to just outcomes. I’m disappointed in these most recent incidents of vandalism. Social activism is a valuable part of our democracy – but targeted vandalism designed to intimidate is not. The challenges confronting our city require respectful engagement so that we can reach thoughtful solutions. Intentional vandalism is an empty response to the important issues we face.”Mayor Rosalynn Bliss
Protest is nothing new in the streets and at city hall. Protesters, upset over the police shooting of Lyoya, have commandeered the last two city commission meetings. Both the April 26 and May 10 meetings were adjourned early due to the protests.
Moody was frustrated by the personal nature of Monday night’s incidents.
“You can’t change anything by attacking people and arguing with people. You’ve got to be willing to sit down and say, ‘You know what, let’s put down our differences and let’s have a conversation about this,’” Moody said. “I want the community to be mindful of the fact that there are some lines we should not cross. That we won’t be able to get back from.”
CITY MANAGER POINTS TO BUDGET
City Manager Mark Washington told News 8 he understands people’s strong feelings but can’t condone vandalism.
“This has been a very trying time for our community,” Washington said in a Zoom call Tuesday. “There are a lot of emotions and frustrations around the officer-involved shooting that resulted in the killing of Patrick Lyoya, and understandably so. And while there’s still a pending investigation with the Michigan State Police and the prosecutor’s office for the determination of charges, I understand the community’s frustration and the need for answers. But we are following the process and right now, I don’t have control of that investigatory process. What I do have some influence on directly right now is the proposed budget. We have proposed several elements of reform that help to improve transparency and accountability to make sure that we have a safe community but to continue to advance equity.”
He said the public can weigh in on that proposed budget at a special meeting of the city commission at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.
“There are appropriate ways for the public to offer feedback to its local government,” Washington said, saying people should call or email their commissioners and attend public meetings to make their opinions heard. “I look forward to hearing those members of the public tonight who will come and acknowledge their names and their concerns about what they would like to see in their local government and what they would like to see in changes in terms of the future.”
Washington said his proposed budget for the next fiscal year includes a number of equity initiatives, including community engagement and use of force training for GRPD and a significant funding increase for the Office of Oversight and Public Accountability, which acts as a watchdog for the police department.
He also recognized calls to invest in housing and economic development for historically underserved communities.
“This year’s budget accomplishes both. There’s money to ensure that there are basic services that continue in the police department, but we’ve also invested in other areas more aggressively,” Washington said.
Lyoya, 26, was shot and killed by GRPD Officer Chris Schurr on April 4. Schurr pulled him over on the city’s Southeast side. Video released by GRPD shows Lyoya ran away and Schurr gave chase. There was a struggle that included Lyoya grabbing Schurr’s Taser. Schurr, who was on top of Lyoya trying to hold him down, ultimately shot Lyoya in the head.
Michigan State Police are investigating the shooting. The case report has been passed along to the Kent County prosecutor. He is awaiting reports from the manufacturer of the officer’s Taser and body camera before he issued a decision about whether the shooting was justified or whether charges are warranted.
Washington said that once the MSP investigation is complete and the prosecutor makes his ruling, the city will be able to make its own decisions.
Anyone with information about the graffiti is asked to call GRPD detectives at 616.456.3380 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.
— News 8’s Meghan Bunchman, Donovan Long and Joe LaFurgey contributed to this report.