GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Patrick Lyoya and Officer Chris Schurr came from different backgrounds. On April 4, their paths collided.
Schurr shot and killed Lyoya after a traffic stop in Grand Rapids. Video previously released by the Grand Rapids Police Department shows Lyoya ran away from Schurr and 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 back of the head.
On Thursday afternoon, Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker announced he was charging Schurr with second-degree murder in the case.
Lyoya, 26, was from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He spent part of his adolescence in a refugee camp, fleeing violence.
“Patrick was a human being and Patrick’s life mattered,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the Lyoya family, said at Lyoya’s funeral.
He was his parents’ eldest son, described as warm, loving and willing to do anything for family and friends.
“Good heart,” his cousin Prosper Latunda previously told News 8. “I actually don’t believe that he’s gone.”
He said Lyoya checked in on him often and was always the first to welcome new refugees. Lyoya loved soccer, holidays, making people laugh and teaching them to dance.
Described as strong and hardworking, Lyoya worked factory jobs and delivered for DoorDash. He stayed in close contact with his two young children, his cousin said.
But he struggled to stay out of trouble. On that April morning, there was a warrant out for his arrest on a domestic violence charge — though there’s no indication Schurr knew that. He had prior arrests related to stolen property and drunk driving, including a traffic stop on US-131 a year before his death.
Video from that stop shows the state police trooper who pulled Lyoya over said he was driving too slowly — only 45 mph on the highway — and “swerving all over the place.” In that stop, Lyoya complied with the trooper’s directions and was taken to jail.
“You just got to sober up and you’ll be on your way,” the trooper said.
Lyoya’s cousin said that no matter Lyoya’s mistakes he did not deserve to die.
“You can’t judge a person just by looking,” Latunda said.
“Watch the video,” he added. “You can be arrested a hundred times … still they can’t kill you. ‘Cause they don’t know your plan. Maybe your plan was to change right away.”
Schurr, 31, grew up in West Michigan. He graduated from Byron Center High School and went on to become a record-setting collegiate pole vaulter.
John Riley, who retired from GRPD the same year Schurr signed on, recalled him as “an outstanding young man.”
“He could go anywhere and do anything he wants to in his life and just chose to be a police officer here in Grand Rapids and try to make a difference with the community,” Riley told News 8.
Riley said Schurr tried to make a difference internationally, too, making multiple mission trips to Kenya, where he and his high school sweetheart had their wedding.
But the bulk of his record reveals a dedicated and driven officer, commended 14 times for his “proactive” and “diligent” policing. Half of the awards stemmed from traffic stops where Schurr found illegal guns in the vehicles.
“He didn’t stop the car to kill anyone,” Riley said.