Demonstrators march for Patrick Lyoya after police release video of officer fatally shooting Black man

The 26-year-old’s family released a statement Wednesday asking for demonstrators to “remain peaceful”

Johanna Chisholm
Thursday 14 April 2022 15:29
Video shows Michigan police officer fatally shooting Black man while kneeling on his back

Hundreds of demonstrators marched in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan towards the city’s police department headquarters for a peaceful protest, which followed Wednesday’s release of a stitched-together video that showed the interactions leading up to the moment when an officer fatally shot Patrick Lyoya in the head earlier this month.

At City Hall on 13 April, Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom and City Manager Mark Washington held a press conference where the footage from the fatal 4 April shooting of the Black man was released to the public, answering a plea that has been made by Lyoya’s family in the weeks since the 26-year-old’s death.

The nearly 20 minutes of footage was compiled from a police cruiser’s dashboard camera, the officer’s body-worn camera, surveillance camera footage from one of the homes where Lyoya was pulled over in front of, and phone video captured by the person riding in the passenger seat of the 26-year-old’s car.

The police body camera footage first shows the officer approaching Lyoya and asking the man to pull over because, he says, the licence plates do not match the car.

An exchange of words is then heard between the two men, after which Lyoya can be heard saying something inaudible to the person inside the car and then beginning to walk towards the front of the vehicle. In the body camera footage, the officer then says “no, no, no, stop” and “put your hands behind your head” before grabbing Lyoya’s arms.

He is then tackled on a lawn in front of one of the homes where the traffic stop occurred, where the officer could be heard saying, “stop resisting”, before unholstering his Taser and firing towards Lyoya, who then appears to grab it from him.

The officer, who was still on top of Lyoya as the pair struggled, then proceeded to fire a single shot to Lyoya’s head while his face was toward the ground, according to Chief Winstrom.

Lyoya’s family, who emigrated to Grand Rapids with the 26-year-old from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2014, had initially released a statement Wednesday alongside Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer asking that demonstrators “remain peaceful”.

“Patrick’s father asked me to convey his hope that any demonstrations in his son’s honour remain peaceful, and as Governor I share this view,” Gov Whitmer wrote in a statement.

And that ask was largely fulfilled, as the peaceful protest, which gathered hundreds of participants in Grands Rapids’ downtown, started off at 5pm local time near Rosa Parks Circle and finished nearly four and half hours later at Veterans Memorial Park without incident, Wood TV8 reported.

A moment of silence was held to commemorate the father of two young daughters at around 6pm, while demonstrators carrying signs that read, “no justice, no peace, no racist police” and “arrest violent cops”, made their way towards the city’s police headquarters.

Wood TV8 reported that there was a brief moment when the crowd was outside the barricaded police entrance, blocked by cement barriers with chain-linked fences, that firecrackers could be heard getting set off down the street.

This, however, was quickly resolved after organisers reassured the group to remain calm and peaceful, as the Lyoya family had asked.

Outside of Wednesday’s peaceful demonstration, the video footage of the officer fatally shooting Lyoya in the back of the head also set off widespread condemnation throughout the country, with groups like The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) calling for immediate action from the highest office in the country.

“Another Black man has died at the hands of police, and the officer in this video has got to be held accountable,” Derrick Johnson, the president of the civil rights group, said in a written statement in response to the Michigan video. “President Biden, sign the police reform executive order now. While we fully understand an executive order is not a substitute for meaningful legislation, we must do everything in our power to protect our community.”

Cle Jackson, who heads up the NAACP’s local chapter in Grand Rapids, said that leaders within the community were disturbed by what they saw in the video, describing it as “straight up murder” from a minor traffic infraction.

“[The office] had the discretion on how he wanted to pursue that young man, as a trained officer of the law, over a simple traffic infraction,” Mr Jackson told local outlet MLive.

Carlton Mayers II, a consultant for the same NAACP chapter, added that “there was no reason to use any kind of weapon” when the officer clearly had control over Lyoya, describing the point at which the officer had the man pinned beneath him. “It was unnecessary. It was lethal force and, in our opinion, it was just straight up murder,” Mr Mayers told MLive.

The attorney and Lyoya family will hold a news conference on 14 April.

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