GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The day after the Grand Rapids police chief said he hoped to soon make public video showing one of his officers shooting and killing a man, the Kent County prosecutor said he has asked police not to release any evidence in the case — including that video.
“To maintain the integrity of this investigation, I have requested that involved police agencies do not release any evidence until the investigation is complete,” Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker wrote in a Thursday morning release.
He went on to say he has a responsibility to protect the rights of everyone involved.
“While I am committed to the transparency of the process, I also must follow legal and ethical duties to ensure the integrity of the investigation by ensuring that information regarding the event that could compromise the investigation is not released,” Becker continued. “I am asking for the public’s patience and understanding so that the investigation can be completed and achieve its goal of a just result for all involved.”
The shooting happened Monday morning in the area of Griggs Street and Nelson Avenue SE. Police say an officer performed a traffic stop on Patrick Lyoya, 26, and that Lyoya ran off. The officer soon caught up, there was a “lengthy fight,” the police chief said, and the officer shot and killed Lyoya.
Michigan State Police are investigating the shooting, which is standard procedure any time an officer uses deadly force. The officer is off the job for now, also standard procedure.
Grand Rapids Police Department Chief Eric Winstrom said the day of the shooting he hoped to release the video next week and he reiterated that stance in an interview with News 8 Wednesday. He said he wanted to show it to Lyoya’s father first.
The interpreter for Lyoya’s family said MSP had shown Lyoya’s family the video.
“I saw that video and I could not sleep. I couldn’t. They shoot him in the back of the head,” interpreter Israel Siku said. “He killed the boy and it was an execution style.”
Winstrom said that while he cannot say for sure at this point whether Lyoya was armed because his department is not handling the investigation, he said that in the video he watched, he did not see Lyoya holding a weapon.
Kent County Commissioner Robert Womack, who has been working with Lyoya’s family, said in a Facebook post Wednesday that police are lying in their description of the shooting.
“This was an execution,” Womack wrote. “The lie that Patrick died in direct combat, and was shot to stop him from fighting, is a lie.”
In his release Thursday, Prosecutor Becker said that his job is to find out the truth, and for that to happen, the investigation must be allowed to proceed unimpeded.
“It is essential in the pursuit of justice to allow the investigation to continue to completion before partial information, including video evidence, is released to the public,” Becker wrote. “There are still many questions which remain unanswered. As is our policy with any ongoing investigation, we do not release any material for public consumption.”
He noted that MSP still needs to interview a number of witnesses, evidence has not yet been analyzed and the autopsy report is still pending.
“The investigation is in its earliest stage,” Becker said.
CITY MANAGER: CHIEF AND PROSECUTOR WILL MEET TO DISCUSS
City Manager Mark Washington said he understands the urgency for the video to be released, but he’s asking for the community’s patience.
“I do ask for the patience of our community,” he said.
Washington said Winstrom will soon sit down with the prosecutor to iron things out.
‘We want to respect their process,” he said. “The police chief is going to be meeting with prosecutor Becker talking about his preference, his request and making sure that we can both protect the integrity of the investigative process but also do so in a way that continues to promote accountability and transparency to our community.”
Washington said the discussion will include deciding what they can and can’t release so they don’t jeopardize the investigation.
He said he doesn’t “have all the facts at this point.”
“I too am looking for both the video information, the medical information, as well as the accounts of witnesses in the area,” he said.
The city manager also pointed out the city isn’t in full control over the decision, as MSP and the prosecutor is also involved in the investigation.
Chief Winstrom said Wednesday that MSP could take as long as two months to complete its investigation, but also that it could be quicker.
In an email to News 8 Thursday, Winstrom said that while GRPD had a desire for transparency, it also “understands Mr. Becker’s concerns.” He did not state outright when the video would be released.
“We are aware of the request from the county prosecutor to delay the public release of video related to the Officer Involved Shooting on 4 April. We share the community’s desire to have transparent and timely access to relevant information regarding this incident but also understand Mr. Becker’s concerns. We will continue to work with Mr. Becker’s office to release the relevant video in a way that protects the integrity of the investigation while honoring our commitment to access and accountability.”GRPD Chief Eric Winstrom
Commissioner Womack said transparency must be paramount.
“I’m asking Chris Becker and the police chief to be transparent,” Womack told News 8 Thursday. “If Chris Becker hasn’t done this before on all the videos that GRPD has released that favors them, there’s no reason Kent County should be getting involved right now to stop that video.”
— News 8’s Bryon Tollefson contributed to this report.