GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — While Michigan State Police say they want to get their investigation into the death of Patrick Lyoya to the Kent County prosecutor by the end of the week, they admit it’s an ambitious goal because they have not yet interviewed the officer who shot him.
A spokesperson said the officer had not yet been interviewed by MSP because his attorney was on vacation last week.
Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker told News 8 that he believed it was unlikely he would have a decision on possible charges before the Grand Rapids Police Department releases the video of Lyoya being shot.
Becker explained that in addition to the video, he will need witness statements, radio traffic and 911 calls and the autopsy report before he can decide anything.
“I would not anticipate everything being complete this week,” Becker wrote in a Monday email. “(I)t takes time to do a complete job with something like this.”
ATTORNEY WEIGHS IN
Attorney Randall Levine, a managing partner at Levine & Levine Attorneys at law in Kalamazoo, said there is a process that follows a police-involved shooting and it requires time and patience from the community.
“Let the process unfold and let the police do their jobs. Let the prosecutor have the benefit of a full review to see whether or not a crime can be charged or whether or not there was a justification,” said Levine.
Levine said the fact that the officer hasn’t given a statement isn’t necessarily a reason to ring the alarm.
“You could speculate about what it means that he hasn’t interviewed within the time that they’d hoped to have him interview but I don’t know that that’s necessarily that significant in a case like this,” said Levine.
He added if the officer believed he would implicate himself criminally, he has the legal right to opt out of making a statement all together.
Police have not indicated that the officer intends to not make a statement at all.
“You have the potential of a police officer being accused of an offense. He, like any other private citizen, enjoys the Fifth Amendment privilege. I don’t know what happened in this case and no one knows what happened in this case, but he could potentially elect to exercise his Fifth Amendment privilege and not give a statement if he thought that he could potentially incriminate himself,” said Levine.
Grand Rapids police say the officer’s decision on when to make the statement doesn’t affect the investigation or if charges will be filed.
Levine says no matter how the potential criminal investigation ends, there will likely be civil litigation to follow.
LOVED ONES CREATE MEMORIAL
The shooting happened the morning of April 4. GRPD says Lyoya, 26, tried to run away from an officer, after which there was a “lengthy fight.” Lyoya was shot and killed. While the video of the shooting has not yet been made public, Lyoya’s father and his interpreter have seen it. They say it shows Lyoya being shot in the back of the head.
Carlene Grassmid lives next door to the yard where Lyoya was shot.
“I was home that fateful day for Patrick,” she told News 8 Monday, one week after it happened.
She said she was asleep when the shooting happened and woke up to police swarming the area.
“I was confused, but I looked out my front door and there Patrick laid,” she said.
She said from what she could tell, it looked like Lyoya was shot in the back of the head.
“When they moved the sheet, you could see… enough of his face to know that he wasn’t shot in the front of his face,” she said.
A small makeshift memorial for Lyoya has sprung up on the side of the road where it happened.
“(Loved ones) put up a shrine and I helped them do that and somehow that was really helpful in dealing with the tragedy,” she said.
Becker last week asked MSP and GRPD not to release that video until MSP’s investigation was complete. But GRPD Chief Winstrom said he would keep his promise to release it this week.
Despite his wish to keep the video out of the public eye for now, Becker said he understood that GRPD and Winstrom “have to do what they think best.” He said he would not criticize Winstrom’s decision.
The Lyoya family has retained civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who also represented the families of Michael Brown, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others.
“The Lyoya family came to our country in pursuit of the American dream, but instead are now living a traumatic American nightmare as they have to bury their loved one due to police brutality. We are once again reminded of how swiftly a police interaction can turn deadly for Black men in America and just how far we have to go to change that.
“From what Patrick’s father has expressed after viewing the body camera footage, we believe that the release of the footage will show the true and raw narrative of how Patrick lost his life to police. We will continue to push for the public release of the footage from this incident and full transparency from Michigan State Police as they continue to investigate this tragic incident.”Ben Crump
Chief Winstrom previously said he would get a statement from the officer April 7. It’s unknown what the officer said when he talked to the chief.
The officer’s name has not been released.