A Michigan prosecutor announced a second-degree murder charge against a white officer who fatally shot Patrick Lyoya, a Black man, in the back of the head in April in a residential Grand Rapids neighborhood.
Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker revealed the charge against Christopher Schurr, a seven-year veteran of the Grand Rapids Police Department, at a press conference Thursday.
“I believe there is a sufficient basis to proceed on a single count of second-degree murder and that charge has been filed with the courts as of today,” Becker said.
Becker got the full report on the events the day after Memorial Day, he said, adding that investigations “take time” and it was a “major decision” after he was asked why the announcement took so long to be released to the public.
Grand Rapids city officials held a news conference just hours after Becker’s decision to charge Schurr with murder.
Grand Rapids City Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said the decision to charge was made without any “input or influence” from any of the Grand Rapids leadership.
“Today’s announcement is an important step in accountability and justice, and as we move forward we have a lot of work to do,” Bliss said during the news conference.
“As a mayor and a colleague to six city commissioners who have been clear about improving police practices in our city for years, we recognize that this work is more important and more urgent than ever.”
Schurr, 31, was captured on film fatally shooting Lyoya, 26, at close range as Schurr had him pinned to the ground after a brief struggle.
Immediately after the shooting, Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom said the department would not release the officer’s name to the public pending an investigation, but Schurr’s name began circulating on social media after the body-worn camera footage of the traffic stop and a cellphone video from a witness went viral.
In the footage, Lyoya is seen by his car when Schurr approaches and tells Lyoya that his license plate is not registered to the vehicle he is driving at the time.
When Lyoya tries to get away from Schurr during the stop, the officer pins him to the ground, slams his head on the grass and knees him in the back. Schurr tries to shock him with a stun gun, but Lyoya grabs it, attempting to block it from striking him.
At this point, police said, Schurr’s body camera stopped working. A cellphone video captures the shooting, as Schurr is heard saying, “Let go of the taser” before he reaches for his gun and shoots Lyoya in the head.
An independent autopsy confirmed Lyoya was shot in the back of the head during the encounter.
Lyoya, a Congolese refugee, was unarmed during the entire incident.
Lyoya’s family said Schurr had no real reason to engage with him during the encounter. His killing outraged his family and members of the Grand Rapids community. A witness told local media that he knew the incident was going to “end badly” as he watched.
A funeral for Lyoya was held on April 22; prominent civil rights activist Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy. Sharpton called on the Department of Justice to investigate the shooting. Michigan’s civil rights agency also said it would revive its pattern and practice investigation into the Grand Rapids Police Department following Lyoya’s killing.
An arraignment for Schurr is set to take place on Friday.