Michigan police officer charged with murder in shooting death of Patrick Lyoya

A Michigan police officer who killed Patrick Lyoya, a Black man, with a shot to the back of his head has been charged with second-degree murder.

Prosecutor Chris Becker announced the charge on Thursday against Grand Rapids Officer Christopher Schurr, weeks after Lyoya was killed following a chaotic traffic stop on April 4.

The 26-year-old Lyoya, a native of Congo, was on the ground when he was killed. The shooting was recorded on video by a bystander.

“The death was not justified or excused … by self defence,” Becker said, referring to an element of second-degree murder.

Schurr, who is white, told Lyoya that he stopped his car because the licence plate didn’t match the vehicle. Roughly a minute into the stop, Lyoya began to run after he was asked to produce a driver’s licence.

Schurr caught him quickly, and the two struggled across a front lawn. The officer demanded that Lyoya “let go” of Schurr’s Taser before he fired the fatal shot.

Grand Rapids Officer Christopher Schurr, shown in August 2015, struggled with Lyoya during a traffic stop on April 4 before fatally shooting him. (Emily Rose Bennett/Grand Rapids Press/The Associated Press)

Grand Rapids police Chief Eric Winstrom released video from four different sources on April 13. Lawyers for Lyoya’s family have called the death an “execution.”

Grand Rapids, with a population about 200,000, is 260 kilometres west of Detroit.

Schurr has been a police officer since 2015. His personnel file shows no complaints of excessive force but much praise for traffic stops and foot chases that led to arrests and the seizure of guns and drugs.

The shooting turned into an immediate crisis for Winstrom, who was a commander in Chicago before taking charge in Grand Rapids in early March.

At a community forum in April, the chief said he wanted to put more emphasis on officers knowing how to turn down the heat during tense situations.

“I guarantee that we can do more,” he said. “Actually, that’s one of the things I’ve already reached out to my colleagues to say, ‘Hey, I need some curriculum, because we are going to beef it up.'”

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