Officials in Kent County, Michigan, announced Thursday that a second-degree murder charge had been filed against the police officer whoon April 4th. Video of the encounter, in which a police officer shot Lyoya in the head after an altercation during a traffic stop, and asks that the officer be charged.
Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said he believes there is sufficient evidence to support the second-degree murder charge against the officer.. The charge is a felony that is punishable by life in prison with the possibility of parole, Becker told a news conference on Thursday.
Becker said Schurr turned himself in and will be indicted on Friday.
A video released by the Grand Rapids Police Department in April showed the officer, who is white, pulling over Lyoya, who is black, for driving with mismatched license plates. The video showed Lyoya getting out of the car despite the policeman’s instructions to stay inside. When instructed to take his wallet out of the car, Lyoya appears to ask a passenger to take it and then tries to walk towards the passenger side of the car.
The officer is then seen telling Lyoya to stop and grab him. The pair fight briefly, before Lyoya breaks free and the officer pursues him on foot. The officer then tackles Lyoya on a nearby lawn, and the two begin to fight.
At one point, the officer fires his Taser twice – but Cedar Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom said he missed Lyoya both times. As the fight continues, it appears at times that both men have their hands on the Taser.
The officer can be heard repeatedly telling Lyoya to take his hand off the Taser, though the passenger can be heard saying that Lyoya is not touching him.
Eventually, the officer is seen climbing on Lyoya and shooting him in the head. Oneconfirmed that he was killed by a gunshot to the head.
Videos released by police included the policeman’s camera, the policeman’s car camera, surveillance video from a house across the street, and cellphone video captured by a passenger in the car. Still, some of the interactions – including the moments before the shooting – are hard to discern. At the time of the shooting, the body camera had been disabled, surveillance video was from a considerable distance, and the cell phone was often pointed at the ground instead of the policeman and Lyoya.
At a press conference in April, Winstrom said the body camera was disabled because the button controlling the recording function was pressed for more than three seconds during the fight. He said that, based on the video, he believed the two men fought over the Taser for about 90 seconds before the shooting.
According to the Associated Press, Winstrom said Thursday that he would recommend firing Schurr, although he is entitled to a hearing, and the city manager will make the decision.
Lyoya’s family condemned the shooting, with his father telling CBS News in April that his son was “killed like an animal”. Peter Lyoya said the family fled the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2014 in hopes of a safer life.
“I came here to save my family,” Peter Lyoya told CBS News. “My son was killed like an animal.”
“Single [who] should be protecting Patrick’s life, he’s the only one [who] killed Patrick and took Patrick’s life,” he added.
In a statement on Thursday, Lyoya family lawyer Benjamin Crump announced the decision to indict Schurr as a “crucial step in the right direction”.
“While the path to justice for Patrick and his family has only just begun, this decision is a crucial step in the right direction,” Crump said. “Officer Schurr must be held accountable for his decision to pursue an unarmed Patrick, shooting him in the back of the head and killing him – for nothing more than a traffic stop.”
Jordan Freiman contributed reporting.