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Justice Denied: Why Patrick Lyoya's Family is Calling for Action

Justice Denied: Why Patrick Lyoya's Family is Calling for Action

  After Patrick Lyoya was fatally shot by a Grand Rapids police officer a year ago, his family remains determined to see justice done. They have petitioned Grand Rapids prosecutors against the officer responsible - although he or she remains unknown publicly - so charges may be filed against him. Ben Crump, an international civil rights attorney, joined the family at a news conference and spoke about why this case deserves national consideration. 1. The Officer’s Account After activists and Patrick Lyoya's family made demands, a police officer released video footage of his fatal encounter with 26-year-old Congolese immigrant Patrick Lyoya on April 4. But the footage raises many questions, such as why Lyoya was stopped initially. Also unknown to us: why his body camera went dark during this deadly encounter. Footage shows an officer approaching Lyoya's car and inquiring about him. Lyoya responded that his license is inside it before closing his door and walking away. At that point, Lyoya received orders to stop by which time an officer appeared with a Taser gun in hand. As part of the struggle, an officer shot Lyoya in the back of the head. No officer has yet been identified, though his actions are being reviewed by state prosecutors. Lyoya's family and friends are demanding that Lyoya's officer be charged, and plan to hold a news conference Thursday afternoon in this regard. National civil rights attorney Ben Crump will join them. Crump contends that the officer's actions were unnecessary and excessive force was used, without justification to engage Lyoya at all; his claim of stopping Lyoya over an apparent license plate discrepancy being "flimsy", according to Crump. Lyoya was described by those who knew him as being kind and peaceful, having grown up in an impoverished community with loving parents who struggled to provide for their family. They are heartbroken at his death and want change. Lyoya's family left their native Democratic Republic of Congo due to war, and moved to Grand Rapids where they joined a growing population of African immigrants who came seeking safety and opportunity in America. But they didn't expect to fight for their son here in Michigan as well. Now they are seeking assistance from Michigan lawmakers and Governor Gretchen Whitmer as they urge the city of Detroit to disclose more details regarding what happened to their son and why an officer fired on him. 2. The Video At Lyoya's funeral service, family, friends and mourners donned black T-shirts bearing the Congolese flag emblazoned with "Justice for Patrick." The service served both as an impetus to take action as well as an awareness of racial tensions in America -- and police departments -- today. Lyoya was tragically shot to death in April by a Grand Rapids officer, who determined his license plate did not match his vehicle. When Lyoya got out, an altercation ensued whereby Lyoya struggled against being grabbed and eventually the officer pulled his Taser before using it against Lyoya before firing a fatal shot into his head. Authorities haven't released the identity of Lyoya's attacker yet and continue to investigate, yet have released various angles of video from multiple angles of Lyoya's car that recorded it and body-worn camera video from one angle. Some videos have been edited to obfuscate details; however, they show that when an officer approached Lyoya initially he requested his license and to roll down his window; soon thereafter physical struggle broke out and at some point, an officer appeared to shoot Lyoya in the head. After being shot, Lyoya was rolled onto his side and officers started chest compressions; unfortunately he never breathed due to a bullet wound in his head and died as a result of its impact. Independent autopsy report conducted by two respected pathologists clearly established that Lyoya did not suffer any other injuries and the shooting was unwarranted; however, police department investigation is progressing slowly while state Attorney General Bill Schuette has yet to bring charges against any officer involved. Mukalay and other community leaders disagree with the decision of Grand Rapids police department to cease protests peacefully in memory of Lyoya's killing, saying it is disservice both to her and the nation as the event fades from memory. They fear an increase in racism as some protests held after George Floyd died resulted in property destruction or even shootings resulting from violent protests in Baltimore resulting in property destruction or shooting incidents. 3. The Police Department’s Account Bryce Huffman: On April 4th, the family of Congolese refugee Patrick Lyoya held a press conference to urge authorities to bring charges against the police officer who shot their loved one. They are demanding both his termination as well as murder charges - as well as release of all videos recorded of this incident. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump led the legal team that represented George Floyd's family while Ven Johnson has recently represented students killed at Oxford High School. Both attended this conference with Lyoya Family members. The two attorneys discussed the significance of disclosing video footage but also called for greater openness from police departments. They want to know why the police chief has withheld information regarding who shot Lyoya; their attorneys have already filed a request that this be made public. Police might not release Lyoya's identity because they fear it could impede their investigation into his shooting, though experts disagree about whether this is truly the case. Scott Roberts of Color of Change believes there was no reason for police interaction in the first place as Lyoya was just sitting parked and didn't seem to be engaging in any unlawful behavior other than an apparent license plate discrepancy issue. Family attorneys are also seeking more details from Kent County prosecutor and police department regarding this incident, due to concerns that officer accounts differ significantly with evidence presented at trial and that lack of clarity may prevent prosecutors from holding their client responsible. The family is seeking an independent autopsy to ascertain what caused Patrick's death and the release of any police videos that show when an officer shot Patrick in the back of the head and killed him almost instantly; this would allow members of the public to witness for themselves what their autopsy reveals. 4. The Community’s Account Patrick Lyoya's family are devastated over what has happened to their loved one; but they want a justice done; civil rights attorney Ben Crump who represents their interests told reporters Thursday they hope a federal lawsuit be filed against both him and Grand Rapids as soon as possible. Officer Christopher Schurr pulled over Lyoya on Wednesday for having an expired license plate, according to video of the incident released Wednesday. Lyoya appeared to comply with him before seemingly closing his door before an officer approached and demanded that Lyoya open up his front door - yet refused and began struggling against them on the ground. An armed Schurr then shot Lyoya in the back of the head or neck, killing him. Winstrom said Lyoya may have prevented the officer from activating their body-worn camera; however, cell phone video captured most of what transpired. Winstrom claims they should have turned off by pushing a button for three seconds but due to Lyoya's body pressure were unable to do so. Lyoya made many contributions to his community since arriving with his family to Grand Rapids, including working at various factories producing auto parts, turkey farms and vacuum cleaner stores as well as teaching Congolese dance traditions in clubs around Grand Rapids. Friends remember a vibrant and generous individual always ready to assist others. Lyoya had many passions: soccer, music and dance were among his favorites; however, his true calling lay with his family in Africa. Lyoya was one of six children who survived the Democratic Republic of Congo civil war that began in 1994 and ended only after three years had passed; this conflict would ultimately claim over three million lives before finally being brought under control in 2003. Family of Patrick Lyoya, shot dead by police last month in Grand Rapids, will gather Thursday at the State Capitol with supporters to demand action from Michigan leaders. Their demands include transparency and accountability from Grand Rapids Police Department as well as Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

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