By Omar Jimenez, Elizabeth Joseph, Steve Almasy and Tiffany Anthony
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Police in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Wednesday released several videos of an officer’s encounter with Patrick Lyoya earlier this month, including two that show the fatal shot during a struggle after a traffic stop.
The department released video from a police body camera, a police unit’s dashcam, cell phone and a home surveillance system as officials answered reporters’ questions at a news conference about the deadly April 4 incident.
Police said before the news conference that neither the videos nor audio were edited. Some video images were redacted or blurred to ensure privacy.
Police Chief Eric Winstrom said the officer will not be identified publicly unless there are criminal charges. The officer is on paid leave and his police powers were suspended, the chief said. Michigan State Police are conducting a criminal investigation.
Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump — who has represented high-profile victims of police violence — has been retained by the Lyoya family and pushed for the officer to be fired and charged.
“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.
There have been multiple protests and rallies on behalf of Lyoya. On Tuesday evening, dozens of people called for justice as they rallied outside a City Commission meeting.
City officials said Wednesday they had taken “precautionary measures” around police headquarters in advance of expected demonstrations. Several hundred people protested outside the building after the video release, many chanting, “Justice for Patrick.”
What the videos show
The incident began just after 8 a.m. CT on April 4, when a police officer pulled over a vehicle for improper registration, authorities said. The officer has been with the department for seven years, according to police.
Lyoya, who was driving, gets out to talk to the officer, videos show.
The videos include the approximately two minute and 40 second interaction, which begins with the officer walking toward the car. Lyoya is seen exiting the vehicle and is instructed by the officer to “get back in the car … dude, I’m stopping ya, do you have a license? Do you have a license?”
“For what?” Lyoya responds.
“I’m stopping ya, do you have a license? Do you have a driver’s license, do you speak English?” he asks.
Lyoya confirms he speaks English and says his license is in the car. He opens the driver’s side front door and speaks to an unidentified passenger in the car.
He then shuts his door, turns his back to the officer and appears to walk toward the front of the car.
“No, no, no, stop, stop,” the officer is heard saying, and puts his hands on Lyoya’s shoulder and back.
Lyoya is seen resisting the officer’s touch and quickly backs away from the officer, running away from him before the officer tackles him to the ground.
The audio of Lyoya speaking is indistinguishable, but as he continues to resist arrest, the officer is repeatedly heard saying, “Stop,” and, “Stop resisting.”
The video shows Lyoya getting up and standing, the officer drawing and then deploying a Taser. Winstrom told reporters the Taser was deployed twice during the confrontation but the prongs didn’t hit Lyoya.
“Let go of the Taser,” the officer is heard saying on his body cam video.
At this point, the officer’s body worn camera was deactivated. Winstrom said it takes pushing a button for three seconds to turn off the body camera and he thought pressure from Lyoya’s body caused the deactivation.
Another angle of the incident, taken from a neighborhood home surveillance camera, captures the rest of the altercation.
After the officer says, “Let go of the Taser,” the two continue to wrestle on the front lawn of an unidentified residence. Roughly 90 seconds later, the officer is heard yelling, “Let go of the Taser,” followed by, “Drop the taser.”
While the video is taken from a distance, less than three seconds later, the officer is heard shooting Lyoya, according to audio from the video. The cell phone video also shows the fatal shot.
Lyoya was shot in the head, the chief 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,” Crump said.
When asked what police officers are trained to do in these situations, the chief said: “Typically the answer is that you’re trying to place him in custody. … You’re trying to secure that individual.
“The follow-up question, I’m sure, will be was the use of force in policy, and I’m not going to comment on that. But the test is going to be whether, in the view of a reasonable police officer, whether that deadly force was needed to prevent death or great bodily harm to that officer.”
Winstrom said he had spoken to the officer, who the chief said was in shock.
Family came to US in 2014
The Lyoya family moved from the Democratic Republic of Congo to the US in 2014, and has been working with their representative, Pastor Israel Siku, since Patrick’s death. Siku’s first language is Swahili and he also acts as an interpreter for the Lyoyas.
He was with Lyoya’s father, just days after the shooting, when they were invited by police to review the video of the shooting.
Siku described the father’s reaction to seeing the video: “He melt(ed) down, he didn’t have anything to say. He almost passed out.”
At a community forum Sunday, Siku told a church full of people, “I saw the video, I could not sleep.”
“The boy was on the floor, the cop as he lays on him, pulls up the gun and shoots him in the head and back up. Patrick did not move,” he added.
Michigan State Police investigating
Michigan State Police said once the investigation is completed, the evidence will be turned over to the county prosecutor who will decide on charges.
Kent County Prosecuting Attorney Christopher Becker asked for patience from the public.
“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,” he said Wednesday in a statement.
“…while the videos released today are an important piece of evidence, they are not all of the 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,” he said.
A death certificate with the cause and manner of Lyoya’s death has been prepared, but will not be completed until the toxicology and tissue test results have been received from a contracted laboratory, Kent County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen D. Cohle said in a Wednesday statement, adding his office has requested the results be expedited.
The full autopsy report, which will be done once toxicology and tissue test results have been received, will not be publicly available until state police conclude their investigation, as is standard operating procedure, Cohle said.
The medical examiner said the family has also been offered the opportunity to seek an independent autopsy.