Grand Rapids, MI — On April 4, an unnamed officer with the Grand Rapids police department initiated a traffic stop on 26-year-old Congolese refugee Patrick Lyoya. Moments later, Lyoya would be dead from a bullet wound to the back of his head — put there by the police officer — over a minor traffic violation.
In a rare move, on Thursday, Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said he believes there’s sufficient evidence to support a second-degree murder charge against the officer who executed Lyoya with a bullet to the back of his head, officer Christopher Schurr.
Schurr now faces the possibility of life in prison without parole. On Thursday Schurr turned himself in and will be arraigned on Friday.
In a statement Thursday, high profile police brutality attorney Benjamin Crump heralded the decision to charge Schurr as a “crucial step in the right direction.”
“While the road to justice for Patrick and his family has just begun, this decision is a crucial step in the right direction,” Crump said. “Officer Schurr must be held accountable for his decision to pursue an unarmed Patrick, ultimately shooting him in the back of the head and killing him – for nothing more than a traffic stop.”
Lyoya’s death is an example of how the system targets the poor and minorities with excessive traffic fees and fines for non-compliance. Lyoya had a suspended license and he knew that the officer who pulled him over that day was going to likely take him to jail for it. So, he tried to get away.
Because it is the police officer’s job to kidnap and cage people over victimless crimes like suspended licenses, Lyoya was not allowed to walk away. Instead, the officer escalated violence against the unarmed, non-violent man.
The nightmare for Lyoya’s two children and his parents started on that fateful day and they had to wait nearly a week to watch how it unfolded. It is one of the most disturbing videos we’ve seen.
According to the Grand Rapids police department, the officer had initiated a traffic stop because the license plate on Lyoya’s car did not match the car in the system.
During the stop, Lyoya exits the vehicle before the officer asks for his driver’s license and tells him to get back in the car. At that moment, Lyoya decided to flee. At this point, the officer gave chase before tackling Lyoya and initiating a struggle on the ground.
At no point during the struggle did Lyoya attempt to punch or otherwise injure the officer. He merely tried to get away and defend himself from the officer’s attack.
When the officer pulls out his taser, Lyoya grabs it to stop the officer from deploying it.
“Stop!” the officer yells. “Let go of the Taser!”
The officer stays on Lyoya’s back for around 90 seconds before he then pulls out his pistol, puts it to the back of Lyoya’s head, and fires. Lyoya would not survive the execution style gunshot to the back of his head.
“The video clearly shows that this was an unnecessary, excessive, and fatal use of force against an unarmed Black man who was confused by the encounter and terrified for his life,” Crump said. “It should be noted that Patrick never used violence against this officer even though the officer used violence against him in several instances for what was a misdemeanor traffic stop.”
“I came here to save my family,” Peter Lyoya told CBS News. “My son has been killed like an animal.”
“The one [who] was supposed to be protecting Patrick’s life, is the one [who] killed Patrick and take Patrick’s life away,” he added.
Lyoya arrived in the United States as a child with his five brothers and sisters. His family was fleeing violence in the Congo and had sought a better and safer life in the States. Unfortunately, and in a twist of tragic irony, thanks to the American police state, their quest for a safer and better life has come to a violent and bloody end.