A lawyer representing the family of Patrick Lyoya, who was shot and killed by police in Grand Rapids, Michigan, during a traffic stop earlier this month, said the man had been executed.
“This video was very difficult to watch,” attorney Ben Crump said at a Thursday press conference with the family, “because what you see in this video is unnecessary, unjustifiable and excessive use of force. fatal. You see a policeman escalating a minor traffic stop to a fatal execution.”
The video shows a brief chase on foot and a struggle with the officer’s Taser before the white officer shoots Lyoya while the black man is face down.
Lyoya’s father, Peter Lyoya, took his six children, including his eldest, Patrick, 26, from Congo in 2014 to escape violence. Now he says he fears he brought them to the United States to die. Peter Lyoya spoke to The Associated Press at his Lansing, Michigan apartment on Thursday, a day after police released video of the fatal encounter. Patrick’s cousin, Ben, served as interpreter.
Peter said he came to the United States to escape a protracted civil unrest in which several rebel groups were vying for control of territory in mineral-rich eastern Congo. Lyoya, who had two young children himself, worked at an auto parts plant in Grand Rapids and visited his siblings in Lansing on weekends, his father said.
Lyoya’s mother, Dorcas, told reporters she believed the family was safe after leaving Congo and was “amazed to see that my son was killed with [a] ball.”
“He was my beloved son. You know how much you love your firstborn son,” she said through an interpreter.
During the April 4 encounter, the officer repeatedly ordered Lyoya to “drop” his Taser, at one point demanding, “Drop the Taser!”
Crump said the officer could have waited for reinforcements once Lyoya fled, but became “violent”. He accused him of not getting proper training using the Taser while around Lyoya, saying it was Lyoya’s “natural instinct” to try to stop being dazed.
Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom spoke of a need for transparency during the release of video collected from a passenger in Lyoya’s car, the officer’s body camera, the car officer’s patrol and a doorbell camera. Winstrom did not identify the officer, a seven-year veteran who is on paid leave during the investigation.
“I consider this 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 240 kilometers northwest of Detroit.
The family wants an officer to be named
Peter Lyoya demanded justice for his son and that the police release the name of the officer. He said his son was a nice kid who never had a problem with anyone. He said Lyoya’s siblings want to know who killed him and would like to see the officer’s photo so they can know “he was the person who took our beloved away.”
The video shows Lyoya fleeing from the officer, who arrested him for driving with a license plate that did not belong to the vehicle. They struggled in front of several houses as Lyoya’s passenger got down and watched.
Winstrom said the taser fight lasted about 90 seconds. In the final moments, the officer was on top of Lyoya, occasionally kneeling on his back to subdue him.
“From my view of the video, the Taser was deployed twice. The Taser did not make contact,” Winstrom told reporters Wednesday. “And Mr. Lyoya was shot in the head. However, that’s the only information I have.”
State police are investigating. Kent County Chief Medical Examiner Dr Stephen Cohle said he had completed the autopsy but toxicology testing was not complete.
Several hundred protesters gathered outside the Grand Rapids Police Department after the videos were released on Wednesday. The protest remained non-violent.
Tense traffic stop from the start
Traffic control was tense from the start. The video shows Lyoya getting out of the car before the officer approaches. He ordered Lyoya to get back into the vehicle, but the man refused.
The officer asked him if he spoke English and demanded his driver’s license. The chase on foot began soon after, the video shows.
“It was not a criminal offense,” Crump said. “It wasn’t even a move violation. It was improper tag, allegedly.”
Prosecutor Chris Becker will decide whether charges are warranted, but said the public should not expect a quick decision. Although the videos “constitute an important piece of evidence, they are not all the evidence”, he added.
The officer’s body camera was turned off before the shooting, which happens when a button is pressed for three seconds, Winstrom said. He said it appears he was involuntarily disabled due to body pressure during the struggle, but he would not discuss any officer statements about it.
“It will come out once the investigation is complete,” Winstrom said.