GRAND RAPIDS — The family of Patrick Lyoya, the Congolese refugee who was shot by a Grand Rapids police officer during a traffic stop earlier this month, has demanded that the officer be identified, fired and arrested.
The video of the shooting “was the most horrific thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Thomas Lyoya, Patrick’s younger brother, said at a press conference on Thursday.
Video footage released Wednesday shows a white Grand Rapids police officer fatally shooting 26-year-old Patrick Lyoya on April 4. State officials have promised a thorough investigation. Meanwhile, protesters gathered in downtown Grand Rapids this week, calling for justice in his death.
At a press conference Thursday, the Lyoya family and their attorneys called on authorities to release the officer’s name, fire him, and prosecute him for Lyoya’s death.
The officer, who has not been publicly identified, has been placed on administrative leave, Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom previously said.
“I want to know the person who killed my son,” said Patrick Lyoya’s father, Peter, who also called for an arrest and conviction. “I have the right.”
WHO WAS PATRICK LYOYA? He escaped violence and persecution in Congo to die in Michigan
The Lyoyas are refugees who fled Congo to escape violence in 2014. Patrick Lyoya’s mother, Dorcas, said she believed the United States would be safe.
“He’s my firstborn,” she said. “I’m really deeply hurt and hurt. I don’t know what to do, I can’t stop crying. All the mothers here, you know the pain we go through to give birth to a child…I’m there. I thought it was my son who wanted to bury me, but I’m the one burying my son.”
Patrick Lyoya’s parents spoke through a translator, Israel Siku, himself overwhelmed with emotion at one point.
At Thursday’s press conference, attorney Ben Crump, who represents the family, compared the treatment of black people in the United States by police to what Russian soldiers do in Ukraine. The national civil rights attorney previously represented the families of George Floyd, killed by Minneapolis police in May 2020, and Breonna Taylor, killed by police in Louisville, Kentucky, in March 2020.
“We condemn Russian soldiers for shooting civilians in Ukraine in the back of the head,” Crump said. “Why don’t we condemn police officers here in the United States of America who shot black civilians in the back of the head? It’s a simple question. If it’s wrong in Ukraine…it’s wrong in Grand Rapids, Michigan.”
WHAT WE KNOW:Patrick Lyoya, shot by Michigan officer, came to the United States seeking safety
Crump thanked the Grand Rapids city manager and police chief for releasing the video because “the truth is the foundation for us to get justice.” He also demanded authorities release the name of the officer who shot Lyoya, fire the officer, and prosecute him.
In the video, Lyoya and a passenger were stopped by the anonymous agent for a traffic stop. Lyoya appeared to disobey the officer’s requests to stay in the car and provide her driver’s license. He ran around the car, the officer tackled him and they appeared to struggle with the officer’s stun gun for about 90 seconds, Police Chief Eric Winstrom said.
The Taser was deployed twice, but never made contact.
Then, with the policeman above and Patrick face down, the policeman shot him in the head.
“When you think about everything (the officer) could have done to avoid shooting Patrick in the back of the head,” Crump said. “This officer hasn’t had basic training when he hires Patrick, he’s going to get his hands on him. And when Patrick walks away, he could have just backed off and called in backup… Whatever he had to do was call in reinforcements and wait, and this case could have ended so differently.”
VIDEO:Michigan police release video of fatal shooting of Patrick Lyoya
Crump said the police department’s model of Taser only had two deployments before the cartridge needed to be replaced. Therefore, Crump said, the Taser was “rendered ineffective” when the officer fired his weapon and there was “no reason” for the officer to be scared.
The police department uses the Taser 7 model, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Kalczuk. She confirmed the Taser only had two rounds, but said it could still produce an electric shock through the wires on the front of the device.
Ven Johnson, another attorney for the family, said Thursday that the officer could not fear for his life as he was over Lyoya.
“You can’t shoot and kill an unarmed man because he resisted,” Johnson said at the press conference. “…No weapon was ever used against the officer.”
The footage is a compilation of videos from a cell phone, home security camera, dash cam and the officer’s body camera, which was disabled during the struggle.
Johnson said the family intends to file a federal murder complaint.
“Patrick had no weapon, no gun, no knife, nothing,” Johnson said. “Patrick never threatened him.”
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday she will “never stop fighting to make Michigan a fairer and more just state.”
She and Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist had spoken with Lyoya’s family, she said in a statement.
“He had his whole life ahead of him. Patrick was a son, a father of two young daughters and an older brother to his five siblings,” she said.