Sen. Runestad defends police shooting Lyoya, mocks reporters as ‘leftist handmaidens’

Sen. McMorrow addresses Sen. Theis in floor speech: ‘We will not let hate win’

By: - April 19, 2022 4:26 pm

State Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) speaks during Senate session, April 19, 2022 | Screenshot

The Michigan Senate was abuzz with floor speeches on Tuesday. 

State Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) openly mocked and denounced media coverage of a police shooting of an unarmed Black man in Grand Rapids — naming one Detroit Free Press reporter in particular. And state Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) slammed state Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton) for falsely accusing her of pedophilia in a fundraising email.

“I was reading recently that Black children in Grand Rapids are asking their parents, ‘Will I too be shot because I’m Black?’ I’m not surprised they feel that way when you have reporters like Arpan Lobo of the Detroit Free Press who writes, and I quote, ‘In the footage, Lyoya was shot in the head and killed by a white’ — white — ‘Grand Rapids police officer after attempting to run away from the officer during a traffic stop,’” Runestad said in a mocking tone. “… That is Mr. Arpan Lobo.”

Fellow Free Press reporter Dave Boucher defended Lobo on Twitter, noting that Runestad called him out “for correctly reporting that Lyoya was shot by an officer after resisting arrest.”

Runestad went on to defend the actions of the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) officer — whose name hasn’t been released — and push back against any notion that the killing of Patrick Lyoya, 26, was unjustified. There have been several protests in the city in response to Lyoya’s death.

On April 4, an unnamed GRPD officer pulled Lyoya over for a traffic stop. Lyoya reportedly got out of the car and started to run away. The unnamed officer deployed a taser twice, which he said did not appear to make contact with Lyoya.

After a brief struggle over possession of the taser, the officer held Lyoya face-down on the ground and fatally shot him in the back of the head.

GRPD, the Michigan State Police and the Kent County Prosecutor’s office are investigating the incident. An independent autopsy released Tuesday by Lyoya’s family found that the gun was pressed against his head when he was shot, and the bullet entered about 4 inches below the top of his scalp. The autopsy also concluded that no signs of Lyoya actively fighting the officer were found.

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

Despite Lobo and others accurately reporting on the events that transpired that day with the information available, Runestad accused him and other members of the Michigan press of promoting “media lies” about the incident and being “handmaidens” for “leftist social justice warriors.”

“You can hear the terror and the overwhelm and the exhaustion in the officer’s face on tape just before the shooting,” he said. “Of course, those leftist social justice warriors and their media handmaidens are not going to give these details to the public.”

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a handmaiden is a personal maid or female servant.

“I would like my comments printed verbatim in the journal so that we can contrast it with what I’m likely going to be reading the media say tomorrow,” Runestad concluded.

State Sen. Adam Hollier (D-Detroit) spoke about the Lyoya shooting after Runestad and emphasized that the incident was a “tragedy” at the end of the day, “not about the left or the right.”

“It was about the loss of a life,” Hollier said. “It was about a father who is never going to go home to his children. And it was about the idea that the state of Michigan doesn’t kill people. We don’t have the death penalty, we do not have laws that allow anyone to take someone’s life. We don’t.

“As a soldier, as a father, as a member of this chamber, it’s deeply concerning to me that we would try and justify it.”

McMorrow takes on Theis fundraising email

McMorrow used her floor speech Tuesday to again denounce a fundraising email sent out by Theis on Monday, which called McMorrow out by name and insinuated that she and other Democrats groom and sexualize children.

That email doubled down on an invocation the Republican made last week prior to Senate session Wednesday, where she claimed children are “under attack” from “forces that desire things for them other than what their parents would have them see and hear and know.”

Apparently referencing Republicans’ national crackdown on teachings that reference LGBTQ+ issues and America’s history of racism, the invocation had prompted three Democratic senators, including McMorrow, to walk out of session in protest.

Sens. Mallory McMorrow (left) and Lana Theis (right) | Susan J. Demas and Michael Gerstein photos

Theis, who is facing a tough primary challenge from former President Trump-endorsed Republican Mike Detmer, then went further with a fundraising email this week claiming Democrats like McMorrow are “trolls” and “groomers” that “sexualize” children, echoing many who believe in the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory.

“Progressive social media trolls like Senator Mallory McMorrow (D-Snowflake) who are outraged they can’t … groom and sexualize kindergarteners or that 8-year-olds are responsible for slavery,” reads the email titled, “groomers outraged by my invocation.”

McMorrow slammed the email during session.

“I didn’t expect to wake up yesterday to the news that the senator from the 22nd District had overnight accused, by name, of grooming and sexualizing children in an email fundraising for herself,” she said. “So I sat on it for a while wondering, why me? And then I realized, because I am the biggest threat to your hollow, hateful scheme.”

McMorrow went on to say that her experience with Christianity growing up taught her that it is more important to be in service to others “than performative nonsense like … writing ‘Christian’ in your Twitter bio and using that as a shield to target and marginalize already marginalized people.”

“… I know that hate will only win if people like me stand by and let it happen. So I want to be very clear right now, call me whatever you want; I hope you brought in a few dollars; I hope it made you sleep good last night. I know who I am. I know what faith and service means and what it calls for in this moment. We will not let hate win,” McMorrow said.

Theis did not offer a response to McMorrow’s comments on the floor and has not responded to several requests for comment.

The Advance asked McMorrow if Theis has reached out to her privately. McMorrow said she has not.


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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.