The shooting was captured on a graphic video.
The charge came down on June 9, 2022.
The prosecutor, Chris Becker, said in a news conference: “The death was not justified or excused … by self defense.”
“I have made the decision to charge Christopher Schurr with one count of second-degree murder,” Becker said. The charge is punishable with a maximum penalty of life in prison with parole and is a felony, Becker said in the news conference.
On April 26, 2022, Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom named Schurr in a statement posted to the department’s Facebook page. His full name is Christopher Paul Schurr.
“In the interest of transparency, to reduce on-going speculation, and to avoid any further confusion, I am confirming the name already publicly circulating – Christopher Schurr – as the officer involved in the April 4 Officer Involved Shooting,” he wrote on April 25, 2022.
Winstrom released a statement on April 8, 2022, saying, “Since this tragic event occurred on Monday morning and in the hours and days that followed, I have been consistent in my commitment to transparency. I have publicly stated my intention to release the video next week and I intend to keep that promise. I have also committed to protecting the integrity of the investigation in the interests of justice and accountability. I have informed the Michigan State Police and the Kent County prosecutor that I will release the video no later than noon on Friday, April 15.”
He followed that statement by releasing the body cam and other videos on April 13, 2022, which you can see below. But be forewarned that the videos are extremely graphic and disturbing. They show a struggle between Schurr and Lyoya after a traffic stop that culminates in the officer shooting Lyoya a single time at close range.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Schurr Has Turned Himself In, the Prosecutor Says
Schurr has turned himself in and will be arraigned on June 10, 2022, according to Becker. Becker said he was limited in what he can say by ethics rules, so he did not provide a lot of details of the case.
Becker said he just got the full report shortly after Memorial Day. He said part of the delay was getting a taser report from a company. The prosecutor said he believed the case did not need to be moved out of the county due to pretrial publicity.
He said that manslaughter is a charge that includes “heat of passion,” but he says the jury will likely be able to consider that lesser charge as well. According to Becker, the Lyoya family thanked him after learning about the charges.
Becker said he did not take the decision lightly, and he noted that public opinion is divided on the case.
Schurr had been on administrative leave without police powers while the investigation unfolded.
Becker said a felony firearm charge was not filed.
2. The Graphic Videos Show Schurr Shooting Lyoya
The above video shows scenes from a police body cam video, dashcam video and citizen cell phone video.
First, a traffic stop ensues. The officer, now identified as Christopher Schurr, tells Lyoya to “Stay in the car. Get in the car” when he gets out of his car.
“Dude I’m stopping you. Do you have a license. Do you have a license?” the officer asks.
The officer tells Lyoya: “the plate doesn’t belong on this car. Do you have a license or no?”
He said his license was in the car. Lyoya then talks to someone else in the car. He walks away.
“No, no,” the officer says.
The officer tries to arrest Lyoya, but he writhes away and runs. After a short pursuit, the officer has Lyoya on the ground. More wrestling ensues.
“Stop, stop,” the officer says. He kicks Lyoya at one point to get him under control and tells him to get his hands behind his back. Lyoya continues to resist. At one point, the officer and Lyola stand up, and the officer is walking behind him. “Stop resisting,” the officer says.
They fall to the ground again. “Let go of the taser,” the officer says. “Let go of the taser,” he says again. You see the taser and Lyoya’s hand on it. “Let go of the taser,” the officer says yet again. A taser is known as an intermediate weapon and is not classified “per se” as a deadly weapon, said the chief. An intermediate weapon has the potential to cause death and great bodily harm, but not necessarily. It depends on “all of the facts of the case,” he said.
Lyoya continues to struggle. At around this point, the body cam was deactivated. The police chief said that an officer has to hold a button steady for three seconds to turn the body cam video off. The camera was hit many times during the struggle. When it deactivated was the first moment it was held down for three seconds, according to the chief. “That’s what deactivated it,” the chief said. The chief believes the camera was turned off because of the pressure on his body not because the officer purposely deactivate it, but he said the investigation would look into that angle.
At the 4:16 mark in the above video, the officer fatally shoots Lyoya in what appears to be in the back of the head.
He then calls the shooting in, saying, “I was just involved in a shooting” and “he has my taser.”
Lyoya’s blood-alcohol level was .29, according to MLive, which also reported that, “Lyoya had three convictions for operating while intoxicated, as well as unlawful use of a motor vehicle, domestic violence and driving while license is suspended or revoked. When he died, there was a domestic violence warrant pending against him.” According to the news site, Lyoya’s supporters have said his criminal history bears no relevancy to the shooting.
3. Schurr Has Been on the Force for Seven Years; Protesters Circulated ‘Wanted’ Posters With His Name But the Union Previously Defended Him
In April, according to MLive, union leaders said they believed Schurr would not be charged with a crime, saying, “a police officer has the legal right to protect themselves and community in a volatile dangerous situation.”
Schurr has been a Grand Rapids police officer for seven years, according to The New York Post.
A Sienna Heights University article says, “2014 Chris Schurr was recently sworn in…as a new member of the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Police Department.”
In a news release dated April 4, 2022, the Grand Rapids Police Department, wrote:
At 8:11 this morning, an officer initiated a traffic stop on a vehicle near the intersection of Griggs and Nelson SE. The officer was working alone at the time of the stop. The vehicle pulled over and the driver, an adult male, exited the vehicle. After initial contact, the driver fled the scene on foot and the officer gave chase. A passenger remained in the vehicle. Following a brief foot pursuit, a physical altercation between the officer and the driver took place that lasted for several minutes. During that altercation, the officer fired his weapon, striking the individual who died as a result of his injuries. No information is being released on the victim at this time, pending family notification.
The officer was injured in the altercation but was examined on-scene did not require transport to the hospital. The officer joined the department in 2015. In accordance with policy, the officer has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigations.
“These types of incidents are tragic and traumatic for everyone involved,” said Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington in that initial release. “While it has been a very long time since our community was forced to navigate a situation such as this, we’ve done the work up front to establish policies and procedures that ensure a transparent and just process.”
The release continued:
Per GRPD’s policy, the Michigan State Police (MSP) investigates any officer-involved shootings. MSP was immediately notified and responded to the scene to begin the investigatory process.
Both body-worn and in-car camera footage were recovered and will be reviewed and preserved per department regulations. Video from private sources has been made available to MSP and GRPD. Eyewitness reports were taken by MSP. All camera footage will be reviewed as part of the investigation and made available as soon as possible following MSP’s processing of the video and any legally required processing is complete. There are legal and contractual considerations preventing the immediate release of video from an active investigation, but the Grand Rapids Police Department is committed to a transparent process and anticipates publicly providing the video next week.
At this time, the circumstances that led to the stop are not clear, but subsequent inspection confirms the vehicle has a license plate that is not registered to that vehicle.
“It is early in the investigation, so understandably, there are questions,” said GRPD Chief Eric Winstrom in that release. “I am committed to providing information as transparently and quickly as the investigation allows. In addition to MSP’s investigation, this has been referred to our Internal Affairs unit for a full review. We are also working with the City’s Office of Oversight and Public Accountability. In the coming days, I will be making efforts to reach out to the driver’s family, as well as the officer and his family as this was a traumatic event for everyone.”
“The loss of life is always tragic. I’m praying for our community, and for everyone impacted by this incident. I’m encouraged by the partnership that Chief Winstrom and GRPD have demonstrated. The role of my office to observe and audit the process to ensure it is fair, just, and thorough,” said Brandon Davis, Director of the Office of Oversight and Public Accountability. “Working together through this process will help increase the confidence in the community that this incident was handled transparently and appropriately.”
Once the Michigan State Police completes its investigation, MSP will provide the GRPD with an update and findings regarding this incident. Chief Winstrom and GRPD’s Internal Affairs Division will then review those findings and provide the Office of Oversight and Public Accountability with access to those records. In order to ensure increased accountability, OPA will audit the investigation and provide a report regarding this incident. Additionally, OPA will make recommendations regarding any necessary policy improvements that are brought to light as a result of this investigation and OPA’s audit.
“My prayers go out to everyone impacted by today’s incident. These situations are tragic and can be traumatizing. We have more questions than answers at this point but, we also have the systems in place to respond,” said Rosalynn Bliss, Grand Rapids Mayor. “I understand how emotional this is and recognize the frustrations many in our community might feel. I ask everyone in our community to respect the process and allow the investigators to do their work before reaching any conclusions.”
4. Schurr Has a History of Past Commendations
According to MLive, Schurr’s personnel file “showed many letters of commendation for taking illegal guns and drugs off the streets. In some of the merit letters, he was recognized for successful foot chases.”
However, the personnel file “did not include potential complaints that may have happened prior to the last two years due to city employment and union stipulations.”
Before releasing the videos, the Grand Rapids police chief, Eric Winstrom, issued a statement on the department’s Facebook page. It reads:
In keeping with my commitment to transparency and my stated intention to release the April 4 critical incident video by the end of this week, the Grand Rapids Police Department will issue several sources of video tomorrow afternoon, Wednesday, April 13.
Prior to the public release of the videos taken from the body worn camera, in-car camera, a cell phone and a home surveillance system, I will hold a press conference to provide additional context to the footage, provide an update and explain next steps in the investigative process.
Because of the sensitive and graphic content of the video, the footage will stream as part of tomorrow’s presentation on the City’s YouTube channel with age restrictions in place. The video contains strong language as well as graphic images resulting in the loss of life. Viewer discretion is advised. Following the press conference, we will provide a public link with the nine source videos that was used to compile the presentation video.
Please note that the videos are unedited, but some video images may have been redacted/blurred to ensure privacy. No audio has been edited.
The video release tomorrow will ensure that the integrity of the investigation, in the interests of justice and accountability, will be protected. The Michigan State Police and the Kent County prosecutor are aware of the intended release.
I thank the public for their patience and understanding while waiting for the release of the video. I intend to continue to be as forthright and transparent during the ongoing investigation which is under the control of the Michigan State Police.
5. The Family Is Not Celebrating, Despite the Charge, an Attorney Says
Attorney Ven Johnson in Detroit told the Associated Press after the charges, “You will not see any celebration on behalf of the Lyoya family.”
Patrick Lyoya’s family members previously appeared at press conference alongside prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump. The names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others were evoked at the beginning of the news conference.
The father Peter Lyoya said Patrick was his first-born son and described him as quiet. The family spoke in Swahili and their comments were translated.
“My life was Patrick, my son,” the emotional father said. “I saw the video and I was hoping Patrick would take my place and to see that my son was killed like an animal by a police officer. I see my heart being broken. I’m asking for justice.”
His mother, Dorcas Lyoya, also spoke at the news conference.
“He’s my first-born. I don’t know what to do. I can’t stop crying,” she said. “I thought my son would bury me. When we run away from war in Congo, I thought I came to a safe haven and now I’m thinking I’m surprised and astonished that it was here that my son was killed with a bullet.”
“Patrick Lyoya immigrated to the United States from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to pursue the American dream and provide a better and safer life for himself and his family,” Ben Crump said in a previous statement, according to The New York Times. “Instead, what found him was a fatal bullet to the back of the head, delivered by an officer of the Grand Rapids Police Department.”