Change is on the minds of the Grand Rapids community following the release of video footage of the fatal shooting of Patrick Lyoya by a police officer during a traffic stop on April 4. Protesters took to the streets to show support for Lyoya and his family.
Grand Rapids residents who have gathered to protest since the incident said one thing is clear: It has to stop.
“Nobody deserves this treatment,” Jordan Michael Walters Sr. said. “Today we're standing, we got to stand up. And it has to stop now. Grand Rapids is the number one place to raise a family. You wouldn't want to raise your family here. With all this going on, you wouldn't feel safe. You want to feel safe.”
Safety was a priority for protesters and leaders alike. DeeDee Grier attended for that specific purpose.
“I'm just here to make sure that everybody feels safe as they are expressing themselves vocally and physically here in front of the Grand Rapids Police Department,” he said.
Grier, president of Grand Rapids non-profit Family Over Everything, worked with other organizations to rename Monroe Center St. to Breonna Taylor Way in memory of Breonna Taylor, who was shot to death by police in Kentucky.
“After all that work done to get a street in memory here because it hadn't happened — and now to have it happen here, it's kind of disheartening.”
Nineteen-year-old Brianna Pearson led much of the demonstration.
“My intake from the situation?” she said. “I’m angry. I’m pissed off.”
Born and raised in Grand Rapids, Pearson is marching for change in her city and nationwide.
“This is happening all around the country,” she said. “But this particular situation just happened to happen in our backyard ... But we as a people, we need to be more unified. We got to stand together, we got to stand proud. We can't just be getting together on the days that we lose a life — we got to be out here every single day.”
At a news conference on Wednesday April 13 at Grand Rapids City Hall, officials released multiple videos of the incident.
On April 4, 2022 at approximately 8:11 a.m. a Grand Rapids police officer observed a vehicle with an improper Michigan Registration, according to the Grand Rapids Police Department. The officer followed the vehicle and made a traffic stop on Nelson Avenue SE, North of Greek Street. Behind the wheel of the vehicle was Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old Black man.
Following the traffic stop, both the officer and Lyoya exited the vehicle and the situation quickly escalated, resulting in a chase and physical altercation in which there was an apparent struggle for a taser.
Third-party cell phone footage showed Lyoya was fatally shot in the back of the head, while the officer was on top of him. Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom confirmed Lyoya was shot in the head.
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Body cam footage showed the initial interaction between the officer and Lyoya. When Lyoya exited his vehicle the officer told him to get back in, asking for his driver’s license and if the Congolese refugee spoke English.
Lyoya gave a brief, ‘yes’ and began speaking to the passenger of the vehicle. Shortly after closing the driver’s side door he walked toward the front of the car, footage from the officers body cam showed.
The officer followed Lyoya and grabbed him by the back of his shoulders when Lyoya began to resist. He briefly ran to the other side of the street before being tackled by the officer.
While wrestling for control, the officer told Lyoya to put his hands behind his back in which Lyoya repeatedly said “OK,”, though the struggle continued.
Lyoya momentarily found his way back to his feet when the officer pulled a taser from his belt. Lyoya grabbed the front of the taser and held on.
”From my view of the video, taser was deployed twice, taser did not make contact,” Winstrom said.
It was in the struggle over the taser that the body worn camera was deactivated, according to the Grand Rapids Police Department.
“So to turn a body worn camera off once it's activated, the officer has to hold the button study for three seconds,” Police Chief Winstrom said, “What we've seen examining the information on that is that it was hitting many times during that struggle. That was the first moment that it was held down for more than three seconds. That’s what deactivated it.”
The third-party phone recorded footage showed a continuation of the situation from a street view.
The footage showed that the officer continued to struggle with Lyoya on the ground, repeating for him to let go of the taser.
The passenger of the vehicle recorded the video, now on the sidewalk.
“He’s good—can you talk to him good,” he said. “Stop grabbing him like that … he ain’t got no taser.”
Moments later the officer pulled his gun and placed it on the back of Lyoya’s head, still on top of him, and pulled the trigger.
Shown in the phone camera footage, a less-than five second interval of time went by between when the officer pulled out his gun and pulled the trigger. It isn’t apparent whether or not there was warning of the gun given.
Throughout the protests there were demands for the name of the officer to be released.
“We don't name suspects,” Winstrom said, “If the officer is charged with a crime, we will name them at that time. But the short answer is no. I'm not going to name the officer.”
Winstrom said the officer involved is currently on paid administrative leave.
Moving forward, as a result of policy through the Grand Rapids City Commission, the investigation will be conducted by a third party.
“So the process is this: we have an outside agency looking into this incident and it's the Michigan State Police,” Winstrom said.“Generally speaking, when they complete their investigation is traditionally when videos like this would be released. We felt that on balance, it was more important to be transparent with the community to provide what information the Grand Rapids Police Department has immediately before that process is finished.”
Ultimately, the protesters present believed that action and change is necessary.
“We don't care about transparency,” Grier said. “We just want you to actually do the work.”
“The man was executed, and people who murder people go to jail,” he said. “so let the board be the same and get justice for this family.”
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