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Criminal Justice & Legal System

Grand Rapids police officer charged with second-degree murder of Patrick Lyoya

A screenshot of a police dash cam showing Patrick Lyoya and Grand Rapids Police Officer Christopher Schurr shortly before Schurr shot Lyoya.
Grand Rapids Police Department
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A screenshot of a police dash cam showing Patrick Lyoya and Grand Rapids Police Officer Christopher Schurr shortly before Schurr shot Lyoya.

Grand Rapids Police officer Christopher Schurr will face one charge of second-degree murder for the killing of Patrick Lyoya.

Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker announced his decision to charge in a press conference Thursday afternoon. Second-degree murder charges are a felony offense, punishable up to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Becker explained his reasoning for the charges during the briefing:

“First, there was a death, a death done by the defendant. Then when the killing occurred, the killer had one of three states of mind: an intent to kill, an intent to do great bodily harm, or the intent to do an act that the natural tendency of that act would be to cause death or great bodily harm. Finally, the death was not justifiable or excused, for example, by self-defense.”

Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker
Dustin Dwyer
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Michigan Radio
Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker explains his decision to charge Schurr during a June 9 press conference.

Schurr was not charged with felony firearm charges. Becker says Schurr turned himself in, and arraignment will take place sometime Friday. The trial will be held in Kent County.

Schurr killed 26-year-old Lyoya on April 4 after a traffic stop and a struggle. Schurr is white. Lyoya was Black. Video of the shooting shows Lyoya was on the ground when Schurr shot him in the back of the head.

Becker said he did not receive the full report from the Michigan State Police until May 31, noting that getting information, including the forensic report from a taser company, took some time. He added that Schurr is considered innocent unless convicted in a court of law.

Becker thanked the family of Patrick Lyoya for their patience and their calls for peace while awaiting the decision. The Lyoya family, who fled the violence of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2014, were provided a letter translated to their native language of Swahili explaining the decision.

Speaking after the press conference, attorney Ven Johnson said the family will not be celebrating the charges, explaining that "this family has been devastated." Johnson added, "There is no excuse whatsoever for Patrick being shot in back of the head."

When asked about what message the charges send to the community, Becker said, “I hope it sends that we take these cases seriously. [...] Everybody thinks, you know, the prosecutors are essentially an arm or just a branch of the police. And we're not. We are our own entity. We have a duty to enforce the law, be it on police or the public.”

Becker says he will handle the case himself. He said he believes it can be heard fairly in Kent County despite video of the killing being widely shared on social media.

In response to the news, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel released the following statement:

"At the Department of Attorney General, we understand the exceptional resources needed to evaluate police-involved shooting deaths and I commend Prosecutor Becker, his team and the Michigan State Police for the exhaustive review conducted these last two months. We must now respect the judicial process and allow the facts of the case to be presented in court."

City leaders in Grand Rapids said they plan to move forward to terminate him from the force.

But, for now, Schurr still has his job.

City manager Mark Washington said there’s a process that has to happen before Schurr can be terminated.

“We have a hearing that we’ll schedule as soon as possible, giving the employee time, and his representatives, to prepare for it," Washington said. "And after that hearing, we will make a decision.”

The hearing could come as soon as next week, Washington said.

A small group of protesters also gathered outside the police department headquarters Thursday evening, continuing their calls for changes.

Among them was Jimmy Barwan, a family member of Lyoya's.

"I was crying," Barwan said about hearing the news.

But he said the announcement of charges was just the start.

"Look it’s been 65 days for us to get to this point," Barwan said. "But what’s next?"

And he said he wants to see more reforms in the police department.

"Please, I repeat please, stop serving us pain and fear. You guys are here to protect us."

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