Saturday, April 13

Michigan police department to release footage of fatal police shooting of Patrick Lyoya

The Grand Rapids Police Department in Michigan released several videos on Wednesday of the fatal police shooting of a Black man during what police said was a traffic stop.

The videos, from a body-worn camera, an in-car camera, a cellphone and a home surveillance system, show the final moments of Patrick Lyoya’s life.

Lyoya, 26, was killed on the morning of April 4, after what Chief Eric Winstrom previously described as a “lengthy struggle” during a traffic stop.

Some members of Lyoya’s family and their language interpreter who had seen video of the encounter before Wednesday’s release said he was killed “execution style.”

They said Lyoya was face down on the ground when he was shot in the back of the head.

“I saw the video. I could not sleep. The boy was on the floor. The cop was on his knees, pulled out the gun and shot him in the head,” Israel Siku, the Lyoya family’s interpreter, said Sunday at a community forum at Renaissance Church of God in Christ in Grand Rapids. The family’s native language is Swahili.

Lyoya immigrated with his family to the US in 2014 from the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, reported MLive, the website of a family of Michigan newspapers.

In an interview Monday, Siku said the family is “still grieving, confused and heartbroken.”

Lyoya leaves behind two children under 2 years old.

Winstrom said the videos and audio will be “unedited, but some video images may have been redacted/blurred to ensure privacy.”

Demands for the release of the videos have grown since Lyoya’s death, and spurred rallies and protests throughout Grand Rapids, including one during a city commission meeting on Tuesday night.

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For hours, a long line of community members in a packed City Hall room expressed their anger and frustrations at the city’s top brass.

Several called to defund the police and for city leaders to resign, including Mayor Rosalynn Bliss and the city’s manager, Mark Washington.

Others said they have been warning the city for years to scale back what they call “heavy-handed policing” and recalled previous violent interactions between police and members of the city’s Black community.

Last year, Grand Rapids police officers stopped and forcibly arrested a Black man they mistook for someone else. The city’s Internal Affairs Unit ultimately concluded that two officers were justified in initiating the traffic stop, and that another three officers were justified in their use of force during the arrest, which included knee strikes, according to the report recently obtained by MLive/The Grand Rapids Press through a Freedom of Information Act request.

In 2017, several officers stopped five unarmed Black preteen and teenage boys at gunpoint and forced them to walk backward to the police with their hands behind their head. They were searched, handcuffed and put into the back of police cruisers before being released. They were not the teens police were looking for, according to MLive.

Barricades and fencing were put up around the police department’s main building as well as in several other areas as the city braces for fallout from the video’s release.

Washington, the city’s manager, said the steps were “precautionary measures.”

“This not only secures the facility but ensures we’re able to provide public safety continuity of service for the entire community,” Washington said in a statement. “I understand these precautions may be alarming to some, I can assure you that we have no current indication of an imminent threat.”

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Lyoya’s father, Peter, called for a “peaceful protest.”

“I want them to show the world that what is happening right now is not right. It’s not good. The world needs to know the truth. People need to fight for justice for Patrick,” he told the NBC affiliate WOOD, through an interpreter .”

The officer who shot Lyoya is white and has been with the department since 2015; he was placed on administrative duty. The case was given to the Michigan State Police to investigate, Winstrom said. The officer’s name has not been released.

Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker had asked the department to not release the video until the state police investigation was complete, to “maintain the integrity of this investigation.”

Becker did not immediately return a request for comment by NBC News on the videos’ release.

The family is represented by the civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who said on Twitter on Tuesday that he would not let Lyoya’s “death be swept under the rug!”

“The 26-yr-old was UNJUSTLY killed by Grand Rapids (MI) police during a traffic stop, leaving yet another broken-hearted Black family to grieve the loss of their loved one,” Crump said.

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