Activists demand officer who killed Lyoya be convicted, GRPD make more changes

By: - June 13, 2022 1:36 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

Activists in Grand Rapids say there won’t be justice for 26-year-old Patrick Lyoya, a Black man who was shot and killed by a Grand Rapids police officer in April, until that officer is convicted for second degree murder.

Last week, Officer Christopher Schurr was charged with one count of second degree murder for killing Lyoya during a traffic stop on April 4. 

“He’s just been charged, not convicted,” said LaDonna Norman, the co-founder of Together We Are Safe, a grassroots group that works to address issues around policing and housing in Grand Rapids.

“It’s clear as day that the system is protecting this man, and they have from day one. If at any given time, he feels like his life is over, he can go out and go postal. And then I bet people would still protect him,” said Norman. 

For more than a week after Lyoya’s death, hundreds of people protested in Grand Rapids, as well as in other cities across the state, demanding the police department release the officer’s name, put him on unpaid leave until the conclusion of the Michigan State Police investigation, fire him and then arrest him. 

The police department released Schurr’s name nearly three weeks after Lyoya was killed.

Schurr reportedly turned himself in and was arraigned in the 61st District Court in Grand Rapids on Friday. Later that day, Schurr posted bond, which was set at $100,000 cash, and was free from the Calhoun County Jail by Friday afternoon.

“He shouldn’t have been able to bond out so easily,” Norman said. 

Norman also questioned why Schurr was held in Calhoun County, rather than Kent County where the crime took place. 

“When you do things away from us, it makes us speculate of what that may or may not be or what it may or may not seem like,” Norman said. 

Lori Latham, a spokesperson for Kent County, said it is “standard operating procedure that officers are held outside of the jurisdiction where they previously served.”

Funeral for Patrick Lyoya on April 22, 2022 | Allison R. Donahue

In April, Schurr was placed on a paid administrative leave until the conclusion of the Michigan State Police’s criminal investigation of the incident and Grand Rapids Police Department’s internal investigation.

On April 13, the GRPD released four videos from the officer’s body-worn camera, an in-car camera, a home surveillance system and a cell phone recording showing the officer chase Lyoya on foot before tackling him to the ground, deploying his taser twice without making contact with Lyoya and shooting Lyoya in the back of the head.

Second degree murder is a felony offense, punishable by up to life in prison with the possibility of parole. The elements of second degree include a death caused by the defendant, who must have been in the mindset to kill, do great bodily harm, or commit an act where the natural tendency is death or great bodily harm. 

According to Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker, Schurr will not face felony firearm charges due to a previous Michigan Supreme Court decision, People v. Khoury, which determined felony firearm charges cannot be brought against a police officer who used a gun in the performance of their duties.

Benjamin Crump, who is one of the lawyers representing the Lyoya family, called the decision to charge Schurr a “crucial step in the right direction.”

Crump is a nationally known civil rights attorney who has represented the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

Activists are demanding the police department to change their policies and reform their policing of Black residents, and they have been calling on these changes long before Lyoya’s death. 

But for now they’re waiting on the court system to hold Schurr accountable. 

“There’s all these scenarios when it’s people that aren’t of color. They will rationalize those scenarios out. And they’re going to keep continuing to rationalize those scenarios out until their children start getting slaughtered, until their children can’t be covered by their life insurance,” Norman said. “Until then, they’re going to protect him. I mean, they’re not protecting us, because there’s a lot of people that feel like they’re doing him a favor.”

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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.