“They will tell you how devastated they are to see, in their own words, their son executed,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump said at a press conference on Thursday. Crump represents the family of Patrick Lyoya, an unarmed black man, who was fatally shot in Grand Rapids on April 4.
Crump and the Lyoya family were joined by lawyers, religious and community leaders at a city church for a “community conversation” about civil rights and police brutality.
Lyoya’s parents, Dorcas and Peter, and his brother Thomas wept at the community forum calling for the prosecution of the officer involved in the incident and demanding justice for the 26-year-old.
The Lyoya family moved from the Democratic Republic of Congo to the United States in 2014. Patrick’s father said he thought he would be safe during clashes with police in the United States.
“What makes me cry the most is seeing my son killed by a policeman for a tiny mistake,” said Peter Lyoya through an interpreter. “My life has come to an end.”
Patrick’s mum said she was “deeply hurt and hurt” and couldn’t stop crying.
“When we flee the war in the [Democratic Republic of the Congo], I thought I had arrived in a safe country. And now I am surprised and amazed to see my son being slaughtered here,” Dorcas Lyoya said through an interpreter. “He is my beloved son, and you know how much you love your firstborn son.”
Officer shot Lyoya in the head, police chief says
The incident began just after 8 a.m. CT on April 4, when a police officer pulled over a vehicle for incorrect registration, authorities said.
Lyoya confirms he speaks English and says his license is in the car. He opens the driver’s side entry door and speaks to an unidentified passenger in the car. He then closes his door, turns his back on the officer and appears to be walking towards the front of the car, video footage shows.
“No, no, no, stop, stop,” the officer is heard saying. He then places his hands on Lyoya’s shoulder and back. Lyoya is seen resisting the officer’s touch and quickly walks away from the officer, running away from him before the officer tackles him to the ground and tells Lyoya to “stop resisting”.
The video shows Lyoya getting up and standing, with the officer drawing and then deploying a Taser.
Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom told reporters at a news conference that the Taser was deployed twice during the confrontation, but the teeth did not hit Lyoya.
“Drop the Taser,” the officer is heard saying on his body camera video.
At this point, the officer’s body-worn camera was disabled. Winstrom said that a button had to be pressed for three seconds to turn off the body camera and he believed Lyoya’s body pressure caused the deactivation.
Another angle of the incident, taken from a neighborhood home surveillance camera, captures the rest of the altercation. The officer is heard shooting Lyoya, according to the audio of the video. Cellphone video also shows the killing blow.
Lyoya was shot in the head, Winstrom said.
Patrick’s father described his son as ‘non-violent’ and said he thought the officer was the one being aggressive. He also said at the event that he has a right to know the name of the person who killed his son and what his story is.
Winstrom said Wednesday that the officer involved in the shooting will not be publicly identified unless there are criminal charges. The officer, who has worked for the department for seven years, is on paid leave and his police powers have been suspended, Winstrom said. Michigan State Police are conducting a criminal investigation.
Officer ‘has not had basic training,’ Crump says
“This video was very difficult to watch because what you see in this video is excessive, unnecessary and unjustifiable use of force,” Crump said Thursday. Crump represented the families of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Michael Brown and other high-profile victims of police brutality.
During the press conference, Crump described different actions the officer could have taken to defuse the situation instead of deploying his weapon.
“This officer hasn’t had basic training. When the officer engages Patrick, he’s going to get his hands on him, and when Patrick leaves, he could have just backed off and called for backup,” Crump said. . “When you watch him make it worse, [the officer] was the violent one.”
Crump said that despite the officer’s violence, Lyoya did not fight back and “fought” with this officer.
“Even after deploying the Taser twice, if he had gone through his training, it would have again presented him with another opportunity to defuse and call in reinforcements,” Crump said. “What was so wrong with him calling for reinforcements? It wasn’t like Patrick murdered anyone. It wasn’t like he robbed anyone. He was arrested for a traffic violation.”
Crump said there was nothing in the body and surveillance footage that indicated Patrick was an immediate danger to the officer.
“You can’t shoot an unarmed person just because they’re resisting,” Crump said, adding, “and you can’t shoot an unarmed person just because of the color of their skin.”
Crump said he and the Lyoya family asked the state’s attorney to prosecute the officer to the fullest extent permitted by law.
Tamika Palmer, Breonna Taylor’s mother, was also present at the event and called for the officer involved in the shooting to be “arrested, convicted and prosecuted.” Taylor was shot by Louisville police officers executing a no knock warrant in her apartment in March 2020.
Calling for police reform at the federal level, Crump said: “We can’t afford not to spend another day because, as Tamika Palmer said, ‘how many more of our children must die before we change the laws and change the politics here in the United States of America?”
There have been multiple demonstrations and rallies on behalf of Lyoya. On Tuesday evening, dozens of people called for justice as they gathered outside a city commission meeting.
CNN’s Omar Jimenez, Elizabeth Joseph, Steve Almasy and Tiffany Anthony contributed to this report.