By Anna Liz Nichols and Ed White, AP
A black man face-down on the ground was fatally shot in the back of the head by a Michigan police officer, the violent climax of a traffic stop, brief foot chase and struggle over a stun gun, according to videos of the April 4 incident.
Patrick Lyoya, 26, was killed outside a house in Grand Rapids. The white officer repeatedly ordered Lyoya to “let go” of his Taser, at one point demanding: “Drop the Taser!”
Citing a need for transparency, the city’s new police chief, Eric Winstrom, on Wednesday released four videos, including critical footage of the shooting recorded by a passenger in Lyoya’s car on that rainy morning.
“I view it as a tragedy. … It was a progression of sadness for me,” said Winstrom, a former high-ranking Chicago police commander who became Grand Rapids chief in March. The city of about 200,000 people is about 150 miles (240 kilometers) northwest of Detroit.
Video shows Lyoya running from the officer who stopped him for driving with a license plate that didn’t belong to the vehicle. They struggled in front of several homes while Lyoya’s passenger got out and watched.
Winstrom said the fight over the Taser lasted about 90 seconds. In the final moments, the officer was on top of Lyoya, kneeling on his back at times to subdue him.
“From my view of the video, Taser was deployed twice. Taser did not make contact,” Winstrom told reporters. “And Mr. Lyoya was shot in the head. However, that’s the only information that I have.”
State police are investigating the shooting. Kent County’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Stephen Cohle, said he completed the autopsy but toxicology tests haven’t been finished.
The traffic stop was tense from the start. Video shows Lyoya, a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, getting out of the car before the officer approached. He ordered Lyoya to get back in the vehicle but the man declined.
The officer asked him if he spoke English and demanded his driver’s license. The foot chase began soon after, video shows.
Winstrom didn’t identify the officer, a seven-year veteran who is on paid leave during the investigation.
“Me being from Chicago for the last 20 years, I’ve handled many police shootings myself, so I do have a lot of experience in this,” the chief said. “I was hoping to never have to utilize that experience here.”
#BREAKING: Hundreds of protesters take to the streets in Grand Rapids, Michigan following today’s release of footage from the Patrick Lyoya shooting. Police are not disclosing the name of the officer involved but say he’s been suspended. #BreakingNews pic.twitter.com/ZrbUg3T3SO
— Breaking 4 News (@Breaking_4_News) April 13, 2022
Video was collected from Lyoya’s passenger, the officer’s body-worn camera, the officer’s patrol car and a doorbell camera. Prosecutor Chris Becker, who will decide whether any charges are warranted, objected to the release but said Winstrom could act on his own.
Becker said the public shouldn’t expect a quick decision.
“While the videos released today are an important piece of evidence, they are not all of the evidence,” he said.
The officer’s body-worn camera was turned off before the shooting, which happens when a button is pushed for 3 seconds, Winstrom said. He said it appears it was deactivated unintentionally due to body pressure during the struggle, but he would not discuss any officer statements about it.
“That will come out once the investigation’s complete,” Winstrom said.
City Manager Mark Washington warned that the videos would lead to “expressions of shock, of anger and of pain.” Some downtown businesses boarded up their storefronts, and concrete barricades surrounded police headquarters.
HAPPENING NOW: Hundreds gather outside the Grand Rapids Police Department to protest the shooting of 26-year-old Patrick Lyoya. Police released videos of the deadly police shooting earlier today. @wwmtnews pic.twitter.com/tU0Drx3NJo
— Trisha McCauley (@TrishaWWMT) April 13, 2022