Authorities in Grand Rapids, Mich., are investigating a police shooting that left an unarmed 26-year-old Black man, Patrick Lyoya, dead after an altercation with a police officer on April 4.
Lyoya’s death has drawn widespread attention after the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) released body-camera footage, dash-camera footage, cellphone video, and home-surveillance video of the incident on Wednesday.
The name of the officer involved in the shooting has not been released, as state police investigate. The officer has been placed on administrative leave.
Here’s what to know.
Who was Patrick Lyoya?
Lyoya was from the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to civil-rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is known for his involvement in cases of high-profile killings of Black Americans and who is representing the family. Lyoya had lived in Grand Rapids for five years.
“His 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!” Crump said in a tweet posted Wednesday.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has said that Lyoya had two daughters and five siblings.
“He arrived in the United States as a refugee with his family fleeing violence. He had his whole life ahead of him,” Whitmer said at a Wednesday press conference.
What happened at the traffic stop
The videos released by the authorities show Lyoya getting pulled over by police officers for allegedly having an unregistered license plate on his car. A friend of Lyoya’s was also in the vehicle.
As the officer gets out of his car, Lyoya also gets out of his own car. The officer is heard yelling for Lyoya to “stay in the car.” The officer repeatedly asks Lyoya if he has a driver’s license and tells him that the plate does not belong on the car.
According to the video record, Lyoya opens the front door to his car and seemingly speaks with the passenger for a moment, before he and the officer get into an altercation. As the officer tries to grab Lyoya, he breaks free and runs away. The officer tackles him in front of a house and has his head pressed against the ground. The officer yells “get your hands behind your back” several times.
The officer’s body camera was not on during the shooting. But a video filmed by the friend in the car shows the shooting itself.
The scuffle between the two lasts for about 90 seconds. At one point, the officer seemingly attempts to tase Lyoya but, according to Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom, the Taser “did not make contact.”
The cellphone video shows that while the officer has Lyoya pinned to the ground, he takes out his weapon and shoots Lyoya in the head.
The Grand Rapids police and the protests in Michigan
The relationship between the GRPD and the Grand Rapids minority community has been tense for years. Black residents in responded to a 2020 survey showing that they have significantly less trust in the police than white and Hispanic residents do, according to data from the city. Grand Rapids is 18% Black.
“Me being from Chicago for the last 20 years, I’ve handled many police shootings myself, so I do have a lot of experience in this,” Winstrom said at the Wednesday press conference; he joined the department in March. “I was hoping to never have to utilize that experience here.”
After the videos were released, protesters gathered outside the GRPD headquarters, demanding that the name of the officer be made public. Though some local businesses took precautions like closing early and boarding up their windows, the protesting was nonviolent.
“Right now…we are condemning Russian soldiers for shooting civilians in Ukraine in the back of the head. Why aren’t we condemning police officers here in the United States of America shooting unarmed Black civilians in the back of the head? It’s a simple question,” Crump said during a Thursday press conference. “If it’s wrong to shoot civilians in the back of the head in the Ukraine, it is wrong for police officers to shoot civilians in the back of the head here in Grand Rapids, Michigan.”
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