Cops kill people, but it’s up to a judge to decide if the traffic stop shooting of Patrick Lyoya might be murder.
What started as a routine traffic stop for a license plate on April 4 turned into what Lyoya’s family described as an “execution.” In June, former Grand Rapids officer Christopher Schurr was charged with second-degree murder for the fatal shooting of Lyoya. AP News reports a judge will decide Monday whether Schurr faces the charges and a jury in court.
Evidence presented at the preliminary hearing will help the judge decide whether there was probable cause for Schurr to kill Lyoya. Schurr had straddled the 26-year-old, who was unarmed and face-down on the ground, before shooting him in the back of the head. The seven-year Grand Rapids Police Department veteran claims self-defense, but the video and witness accounts paint a picture of cold-blooded murder.
The court considers video evidence and witnesses’ testimony.
A witness testified that the Congolese native’s unfamiliarity with American police procedures seemed to seal his fate. According to Wayne Butler, Lyoya seemed confused about the traffic stop protocol. The driver jumped out of his car as soon as he stopped. Butler’s concern increased as Lyoya started to run “like he was disoriented” before Schurr dragged him down into a “wrestling match.”
“I could tell Patrick was confused. The confusion is, first of all, you shouldn’t have been out of the car as an African-American male. Don’t you know he’s got a gun, he’s got a Taser, he could kill you? Clearly he didn’t know what the rules in America are about traffic stops,” Butler said.
“The officer is always winning, 60-40. He always had the lead; it wasn’t by much. You could tell he was getting worn out, but he always had the upper hand,” Butler continued, describing the scuffle.
Butler missed the moment of the shooting when he went to retrieve his phone to film. At first, he told authorities that Schurr did nothing wrong during the initial struggle. However, his opinion changed after viewing a full video of the “execution-style” shooting. Schurr’s bodycam also stopped recording right before he fired the fatal shot.
The tragic aftermath of Patrick Lyoya’s killing
According to WOOD TV8, Schurr’s former training officer testified that he “did everything as he was trained to do; he did everything correctly.” The Grand Rapids Police Department disagrees. They fired Schurr in June after he waived his right to a discharge hearing. If executing civilians at traffic stops is standard procedure, it strengthens abolitionists’ claims that American police are beyond reform.
Patrick’s parents, Peter and Dorcas Lyoya, attended the trial with the assistance of a Swahili translator. They came to the United States in 2014 with their six children as refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The family thought America would provide a better, safer life, but now they feel like their dream turned into a nightmare. Peter demanded justice, claiming that Schurr held his son down and killed him “like an animal.”
After a devastating string of high-profile police killings, Lyoya’s shooting drew national attention and outrage. Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy at Patrick’s funeral to amplify demands for justice and accountability. Monday’s hearing will determine whether Patrick’s killer will face a jury and possible prison sentence for second-degree murder.