GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — If the Kent County prosecutor announces the Grand Rapids police officer who shot and killed Patrick Lyoya was justified, the Lyoya family’s attorneys say they will take action.
The prosecutor will announce Thursday if the officer was justified in his actions or whether charges are warranted.
Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker will hold a news conference at 3 p.m. at Michigan State Police Sixth District Headquarters in Walker. It will air on WOOD TV8 and stream live on woodtv.com. Streams will also be available on the county’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.
The shooting happened April 4. Video released by the Grand Rapids Police Department shows that Officer Chris Schurr pulled Lyoya over, Lyoya ran away and there was a struggle that included Lyoya grabbing Schurr’s Taser. Schurr, who was on top of Lyoya trying to hold him down, shot Lyoya in the back of the head.
Michigan State Police were called in to investigate the shooting, which is standard procedure anytime a GRPD officer uses deadly force. Becker got the bulk of MSP’s investigation April 28 but had to wait about another month to get additional forensic reports from the manufacturer of the officer’s body camera and Taser, without which he said he could not make a decision.
On May 18, Becker said he was seeking additional “expert guidance” on the case, though he wouldn’t say exactly what that guidance was or from whom he was seeking it. Becker has called for patience from the community while he carefully reviewed the case.
The police officers’ union that represents Schurr said in an April statement that it was confident “a thorough review of this entire situation will show that a police officer has the legal right to protect themselves and community in a volatile dangerous situation such as this, in order to return to his/her family at the end of their shift.”
The MSP investigation is separate from an internal GRPD investigation. GRPD Chief Eric Winstrom, who had been on the job less than a month when the shooting happened, previously said he would not make any decisions about Schurr’s employment until the state police investigation was finished. For now, Schurr is still on paid administrative leave.
LYOYA FAMILY HASN’T HEARD FROM PROSECUTOR
Lyoya, 26, was a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who moved to the U.S. several years ago. He had two children.
His family retained famed civil rights attorney Ben Crump to represent them. Crump and Michigan-based attorney Ven Johnson say Schurr repeatedly failed to deescalate the situation and used excessive force. They have called for him to be fired and charged. They also indicated a civil lawsuit may be pending.
The Lyoya family’s attorney’s office told News 8 the family did not get a heads up from the prosecutor that the decision was coming.
In an interview with News 8 on Wednesday night, Attorney Johnson said the Lyoya family is “incredibly concerned” because they haven’t heard from Becker about his decision.
“It would really be nice for them to hear directly from the prosecutor,” Johnson said. “Not that he’s having a press conference tomorrow, but, ‘Here’s my decision and here’s why.’ And obviously, they’re not going to get that from him. And to me, that’s revictimizing the victims, and it makes me very, very sad.”
If Becker doesn’t charge Schurr in the killing of Lyoya, the family’s attorneys will take action.
“We’re certainly going to reach out formally to Michigan Attorney General (Dana) Nessel and ask her and her office to take over,” Johnson said.
Attorney Ben Crump has already reached out to the Justice Department to get involved.
“If the original prosecutor doesn’t charge, it’s less likely that they will get involved,” Johnson said. “But in this day and age, what we think the clarity of what happened here on the video, we would certainly hope and encourage them and implore them to do that.”
After more than two months of waiting, it’s a difficult time for the family as they prepare for the decision, Johnson said.
“I hope and pray for the family that tomorrow is a better day and Mr. Becker comes off and lives up to his sworn duties and charges an officer because he absolutely utilized excessive force,” he said.
WOMACK: PROSECUTOR ‘ANSWERING TO THE WORLD’
Kent County Commissioner Robert S Womack has been supporting the family since Lyoya was killed on April 4.
“Tomorrow, our prosecutor won’t only be answering to the citizens of Grand Rapids and Kent County, he will be answering to the world about how we view what we saw in that video,” Womack told News 8 Wednesday. “Is this a human being that was murdered? Or is this a person that because of his background, because of the misdemeanors and maybe a felony in his past, that has no right to life?”
Womack wants felony charges against Schurr so more evidence can be shown to the public in court.
“Right now we just have the video to go from,” Womack said. “But any court case is going to bring forth more evidence, the real pertinent evidence that we really know to judge this situation.”
Womack said the case is representative of systemic problems within GRPD.
“Why does it take a life to be lost for us finally to understand that we need deescalation training in our police departments?” Womack wondered. “Why does it take a life to be lost for us to know that we need police reform? Why does it take a life to be lost before we understand we also need training in our community on what to do when you are approached by a police officer and knowing your true rights? Most people don’t even know that you do have to identify yourself, you do have to give your driver’s license or ID. There’s no training out here for the police or the community.”
Womack is calling for peace, reiterating that the family’s attorneys have other legal avenues regardless of what Becker decides.
“We do plan to look for other ways of getting this to court if the decision does not come back that he’s charged,” Womack said. “I’m asking people to pause and not tear up our city.”