Posted on June 10, 2022

Michigan Police Officer Charged With Murder After Killing Black Motorist

Luke Vander Ploeg and Mitch Smith, New York Times, June 9, 2022

The video shocked residents: A police officer wrestling on the ground with a Black man who had fled from a traffic stop, then pulling out a gun and firing a single round into the back of the man’s head, killing him.

Over the course of two months, since that April 4 killing of Patrick Lyoya in Grand Rapids, Mich., protesters had marched through downtown, interrupted City Commission meetings and demanded that the officer who fired the fatal shot, Christopher Schurr, face criminal charges.

On Thursday, Christopher Becker, the Kent County prosecuting attorney, charged Officer Schurr, who is white, with second-degree murder.


{snip} The Grand Rapids Police Officers Association, which previously released a statement defending Officer Schurr, could also not immediately be reached.

“As tragic as this case is all the way around,” the organization said in April, “we feel a thorough review of this entire situation will show that a police officer has the legal right to protect themselves and community in a volatile dangerous situation such as this.”

Officer Schurr, who grew up near Grand Rapids and has worked in law enforcement for about seven years, could face up to life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder.

The death of Mr. Lyoya, an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo, worsened longstanding tensions with the police in Grand Rapids, a city of about 200,000 people where 18 percent of residents are Black. {snip}

Mr. Lyoya was pulled over on the cold, rainy morning of April 4. After stepping out of his car, videos released by the police show, Mr. Lyoya appears confused as the officer tells him to get back in the vehicle. Officer Schurr asks him whether he speaks English.

Mr. Lyoya responds that he does speak English and asks, “What did I do wrong?” After a brief exchange about whether Mr. Lyoya has a driver’s license, Officer Schurr grabs Mr. Lyoya, who pulls away and starts to run, the footage shows.

The officer tackles Mr. Lyoya in a nearby lawn, yelling “Stop!” as Mr. Lyoya appears to try to regain his footing. At one point, body camera footage shows Mr. Lyoya grasping for the Taser in Officer Schurr’s hand.

Midway through the struggle, the officer’s body camera stops filming. Chief Eric Winstrom of the Grand Rapids police said pressure was applied to the camera to turn it off during the struggle. It was not clear who applied that pressure or whether it was intentional.

Other cameras — from the officer’s vehicle, a nearby doorbell security system and a bystander’s cellphone — capture different portions of the encounter. Shortly before the fatal shot is fired, Officer Schurr yells, “Let go of the Taser!” Mr. Lyoya is facing the ground and pushing up, with the officer on top of him, in the moments just before the shooting.


But Mr. Lyoya had struggled since arriving in Michigan. He had been arrested more than a dozen times, mostly for misdemeanors involving cars, and he also faced three charges for domestic violence. At the time of his death, Mr. Lyoya was on probation, his driver’s license was revoked and there were two warrants out for his arrest, including one for a domestic violence charge three days earlier. He had told friends he was trying to get his life together.


Outside the Grand Rapids Police Department on Thursday, Najee Brown, 29, said the charging decision was a pleasant surprise.


“I think it’ll scare the other cops that plan on being aggressive like that,” he said.