Independent autopsy shows Lyoya was shot by officer, gun was likely pressed to his head

By: - April 19, 2022 1:16 pm

Protest on April 15, 2022 after a GRPD officer fatally shot a 26-year-old Black man, Patrick Lyoya, in the head. | Allison R. Donahue

Attorneys for the Patrick Lyoya family released Tuesday the findings of an independent autopsy performed by a world-renowned forensic pathology expert, Werner Spitz. 

Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old Black man, was fatally shot in the back of the head by a white Grand Rapids police officer on April 4. The Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) released several videos Wednesday showing the officer shooting Lyoya in the head. The four videos are from the officer’s body-worn camera, an in-car camera, a home surveillance system and a cell phone recording. 

Spitz said he believes the gun was pressed against Lyoya’s head when the officer shot him “with a very powerful bullet.” The GRPD has not released the officer’s name.

Attorneys Ven Johnson and Ben Crump and Forensic Pathology Expert Werner Spitz present on April 19, 2022 the independent autopsy findings of Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old Black man who was fatally shot in the head by a GRPD police officer | Screenshot

Spitz has worked on several prominent cases, including the investigations of the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. and the deaths of Michael Jackson and Casey Anthony. 

Attorney Ven Johnson of Ven Johnson Law said the autopsy, which shows Lyoya was shot about 4 inches below the top of the scalp, also shows that Lyoya did not put up a fight against the officer. 

“He wasn’t fighting. What he was ultimately doing was trying to defend himself and push the officer away from him,” said Johnson during a press conference in Detroit Tuesday. “He was resisting … but he was not actively fighting this officer. Hence, you have no physical injuries to the knuckles, face, body, etc. I would think that’s pretty obvious.”

Johnson was joined by attorney Ben Crump, a national civil rights attorney working with the Lyoya family who represented the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor,  two African Americans who were killed by police. The lawyers said the GRPD officer did not give a fair warning before using the gun or the taser.

According to GRPD Chief Eric Winstrom on Wednesday, prior to shooting Lyoya, the officer deployed a taser twice, but the taser never made contact with Lyoya.

“From the second he pulled out the weapon until he shot and killed Patrick was milliseconds,” said Johnson. “He never gave a verbal warning, which is required under the federal law.”

Hundreds of people have protested the killing of Lyoya in downtown Grand Rapids, calling on the police department to release the name of the officer, put him on unpaid leave until the conclusion of the Michigan State Police investigation, fire him and then arrest him. 

John. E. Johnson, Jr., Executive Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, said Monday he is having discussions with Attorney General Dana Nessel on a potential collaborative effort to examine whether the Grand Rapids Police Department has a history of discriminatory practices.

“The residents of Grand Rapids deserve to know that the state of Michigan takes seriously their right to equal treatment under the law,” Johnson said.

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue is a former Michigan Advance reporter who covered education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.