Warning: This article contains video that shows the moments leading up to Patrick Lyoya’s death. Viewer discretion is advised.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Promising transparency and a thorough investigation, police in Grand Rapids, Michigan, released video Wednesday that shows an officer pulling over Patrick Lyoya and a long struggle between the two that ends with the officer shooting and killing Lyoya.
The shooting happened the morning of April 4 on the city’s southeast side. GRPD previously said Lyoya, 26, tried to run away from an officer because he was worried about being arrested, after which there was a “lengthy fight.”
Grand Rapids Police Department showed four videos: from a dashboard camera, a body camera, a doorbell camera and a cellphone. The video blurred the faces of bystanders but not Lyoya’s face, nor the face of the officer.
GRPD says it has nine source videos, including four from the doorbell camera. Its release of video shortened some of those sources so as not to include the aftermath of the shooting, which the department said “was done to expedite their public release in the interest of transparency.”
Opening the city’s Wednesday afternoon press conference, City Manager Mark Washington called it a “sad day for our city, our state and our country.”
WOOD is not using video showing the moment of death. You can watch the full GRPD press conference with the full video on the city’s YouTube channel.
Dashboard camera and body camera video shows that the officer pulled Lyoya over after realizing that the plate on the car he was driving didn’t match the vehicle. As soon as he stopped Lyoya, Lyoya got out of the car.
The officer told him to get back in the car, but Lyoya didn’t. The officer asked him if he had a license. Lyoya seemed confused. The officer asked if he spoke English and Lyoya said he did.
When Lyoya stepped away, the officer grabbed him. A long struggle ensued.
The officer drew a stun gun and its deployment can be heard in the video, GRPD Chief Eric Winstrom says though the stungun was fired twice, neither shot hit Lyoya.
The bodycam video also shows Lyoya grab for the stun gun. Winstrom said the officer and Lyoya appeared to struggle over the weapon for about 90 seconds.
In the video, the officer can be heard repeatedly telling Lyoya to let go of the stun gun.
The cellphone video also shows the officer pull his gun. Once more, he tells Lyoya to let go of the stungun. Moments later, a single shot is fired.
Winstrom said Lyoya was shot in the head. He noted he did not have the full autopsy report, which is not yet done.
The video shows the officer backing away from Lyoya and reporting the shooting over his radio.
Chief Winstrom noted that the investigation is still in its early stages and investigators’ understanding of what happened may still change. He also said that at this point, he is not prepared to make a determination about whether the officer was justified or followed department policy. The only conclusion he would make was that he “view(s) it as a tragedy.”
Winstrom has only been the police chief in Grand Rapids for 37 days. Washington said Winstrom is an expert in the use of force and noted he is also an attorney, so he is positioned to “find answers, identify accountability and propose improvements.”
“We acknowledge that this is a necessary process. But the city has embraced to ask the tough questions and answer those questions and operate with full transparency and accountability to ensure that justice prevails,” Washington said.
Michigan State Police is investigating the shooting, which is standard procedure anytime a local officer uses deadly force. The agency said Monday it hopes to get its investigation to the Kent County prosecutor by the end of the week, though that’s not set in stone. The prosecutor does not expect to reach a decision about whether the officer was justified in his use of force or whether charges are appropriate this week.
“Following the Grand Rapids Police Department’s release of video related to the April 4 officer-involved shooting of Mr. Patrick Lyoya, I once again ask the community for patience in this matter. The Michigan State Police independent investigation into the incident is not complete. This is an extremely critical incident, and one that everyone involved in the investigation is taking very seriously. The Michigan State Police are doing everything they can to complete the investigation in a timely manner, however it takes time to carefully gather the evidence. We do not have all of the evidence for review. I don’t have an opportunity to review a case until I have all the evidence.
“To provide context, the Kent County Sheriff’s Department is investigating an incident from March 31, 2022, where a homeowner reportedly shot and killed an intruder. That incident occurred days before this one, yet we have not received the reports from that investigation. I offer this incident to demonstrate, a thorough investigations take time, we are asking that the appropriate time be given here.
“It is important to note, while the videos released today are an important piece of evidence, they are not all of the evidence. Our office has never made, and will not make, a decision based on partial evidence. By law, we are required to review all available evidence before we consider whether charges should be filed, and if so, what appropriate charges should be. This careful consideration of all evidence is a very important step in our criminal justice system.
“Once the Michigan State Police turn over the evidence to our office, we will begin a thorough review. That process will include review of all witness statements and all video that pertains to this incident, including body-worn camera video, in-car video, and any home video that may be available. In addition, as in any case involving a death, we will review the autopsy and toxicology reports, radio traffic, and reports from the crime scene.
“As I have said in a previous statement, I have one goal – the pursuit of truth – and I am committed to that. We must follow legal and ethical guidelines to ensure the integrity of this process. We cannot do anything until the investigation is complete, and we have all the information we need to make an informed decision. This will take time and I once again ask for the community’s patience.”Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker
Brandon Davis, the director of the city Office of Oversight and Public Accountability, said at the press conference that his agency is keeping an eye on the internal investigation from GRPD. He promised a post-action inquiry from OPA that would look at what happened and how GRPD responded.
“However, right now, the most important thing for my office to do is to monitor this investigation to ensure that there is truth and accountability,” Davis said.
Davis stressed that neither the city nor GRPD have any authority to decide whether charges are appropriate in the case. He said that is the responsibility of MSP and the prosecutor.
In a statement early Wednesday afternoon, Kent County Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Cohle said that he conducted Lyoya’s autopsy April 4 but the report was not yet available to the public. The medical examiner is awaiting toxicology and tissue test results. Cohle said those results can take 60 days, though he has asked for a rush. Even once those results are back, the full autopsy report won’t be released until after the police investigation is finished.
“This is the standard operating procedure to ensure the integrity of the investigative process,” Cohle stated.
He added that his office is still holding Lyoya’s body pending instructions from the family on whether to release it to a funeral home or an independent agency if the family requests its own autopsy.
“My office understands that the families we work with are grieving,” Cohle’s statement said. “We strive to ensure every family is treated with dignity and respect and is supported with compassion and honest information to help them make appropriate arrangements. I have personally spoken with Mr. Lyoya’s father (via interpreter), and my office stands ready to assist him with the release of his son’s body when the family has reached a decision on the arrangements.”
Preparation for protests
In anticipation of demonstrations over the next few days and this weekend, Washington said in a statement that he “fully support(s) our residents exercising their First Amendment rights” and also that he was working with organizers to make sure those protests happen “in a safe and productive manner.”
“Due to the focus of the protest being on our police department, we have taken some precautionary measures around that facility to facilitate continued access and uninterrupted operations,” Washington’s statement continued, referencing the concrete barriers topped with chain-link fence installed around GRPD headquarters Tuesday. “This not only secures the facility but ensures we’re able to provide public safety continuity of service for the entire community. I understand these precautions may be alarming to some, I can assure you that we have no current indication of an imminent threat.”
He added that the city “does not anticipate any threats to people or property in the downtown area.”
“Following (the) video release, we will continue to prioritize the safety of our community and provide additional direction if necessary,” the statement concluded.
Temporary chain-link fences were also put up around the Kent County Courthouse downtown.
A couple of businesses down the street from GRPD headquarters have boarded up their windows.
In a statement released to News 8 Wednesday morning, Lyoya’s family called for the community to avoid protests for the time being.
“No protests at this time. We don’t want violence out there. We want to avoid any violence.”Lyoya family
Family attorney calls for officer’s firing
The attorney for Lyoya’s family, Ben Crump, who also represented the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, will hold a press conference Thursday afternoon addressing the footage.
In a Wednesday statement, civil rights attorney Crump said the officer used excessive force.
“Patrick Lyoya immigrated to the United States from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to pursue the American Dream and provide a better and safer life for himself and his family,” Crump said in his statement. “Instead, what found him was a fatal bullet to the back of the head, delivered by an officer of the Grand Rapids Police Department. 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. 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.”
Jimmy Barwan, also an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said he had been friends with Lyoya for 14 years and treated him like a brother. He wondered why the officer drew his gun.
“They got somebody on the ground; they got somebody on the ground already sleeping. Why couldn’t you just handcuff him or something,” Barwan told News 8 after watching the video. “Yes, I understand there was a Taser and I know all that stuff, but why not use any other legal force, you could’ve called for backup, anything… Why shoot him? Why kill him?” he continued. “What did he do to deserve that? And he was unarmed, no gun.”
He said he was overwhelmed by grief.
The mismatched license plate for which Lyoya was stopped is not a felony. The police chief said that to his knowledge, the only weapons on scene were the officer’s Taser and the officer’s firearm, though he qualified that by saying he didn’t have all the information that Michigan State Police have. Winstrom said he didn’t know why the officer made the stop alone.
Asked why the officer didn’t simply let Lyoya go rather than fighting him, the chief said he didn’t have the answer to that question because the shooting is not GRPD’s case.
News 8’s Kyle Mitchell, Jacqueline Francis, Whitney Burney, Susan Samples and Joe LaFurgey contributed to this report.