The Grand Rapids Police officer who killed Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old black man, has been charged with one count of second degree murder, a charge punishable by up to life in prison.
“That charge has been filed with the courts as of today,” Kent County Prosecuting Attorney Christopher Becker stated in the livestream from the Michigan State Police headquarters on Kent County’s YouTube channel. “This case needs to be tried in a court of law.”
Becker began his announcement by expressing his thanks to the Lyoya family for their patience regarding the case.
“I just had the opportunity to speak with the family, express my condolences and tell them essentially what I’m telling you here,” he stated. “I had a letter translated in Swahili to provide to the family so they can be fully aware of what my announcement is here today.”
Lyoya and his family are refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who came to the U.S. in 2014.
Becker went on to thank the Michigan State Police for their dedication and thorough investigation before he announced that he had charged Christopher Schurr with one count of second degree murder. Second degree murder is a felony offense that is punishable with up to life in prison with the possibliity of parole.
“This is merely an allegation and as with any defendant, he is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” Becker stated.
When asked about the second degree murder charge being the top option for this case, Becker explained the distinction between first and second degree murder.
“The only thing above second degree murder is first degree murder and there is not a sufficient basis… pre-meditation and deliberation just weren’t there,” Becker stated.
Becker also stated that he did not file a felony firearm charge. A felony firearm is a separate accusation that is often charged when a gun is used in a homicide. He stated that he cannot charge Schurr with a felony firearm because of the 1991 Michigan Supreme Court case, People vs. Khoury. The court ruled that a felony firearm cannot be charged against a police officer who used a gun in the performance of their duties.
“It is my understanding… that Mr. Schurr has turned himself in,” Becker stated.
These charges are the result of a shooting on April 4, when Schurr killed Lyoya.
GR police revealed footage from a dashboard camera on the police vehicle, Schurr’s body camera, security footage from a nearby home, and cell phone footage from the passenger in the vehicle Lyoya was driving.
Schurr was trying to arrest Lyoya after a traffic stop; a struggle ensued and while Lyoya was face down with Schurr on his back, Schurr shot Lyoya in the back of the head.
Grand Rapids officials react to Becker’s announcement at City Hall press conference
City officials issued statements regarding Becker’s decision at a press conference Thursday evening at Grand Rapids City Hall.
Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss started by offering her condolences to the Lyoya family and welcoming everyone.
“As a mayor, and a colleague to six city commissioners who have been very clear about our commitment to improving police practices in our city for years, we recognize that this work is more important and it is more urgent than ever,” Bliss said.
Following the mayor, Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington spoke.
“While the charging decision work is closed, our work within the organization and the community will continue as we continue to evaluate all relevant policies and practices,” Washington said. “Police reform requires us to evaluate many longstanding practices and ensure our actions are consistent with the best interests of the community and the individuals involved, as well as the safety of our officers.”
“I look forward to Chief Winstrom’s review of departmental practices by the end of July,” he said. “I remain committed to making sure our city is a place where everyone feels safe and is safe at all times. I recognize that this is a never ending process.”
The Director of Oversight and Public Accountability (OPA) Brandon Davis spoke about the internal employment investigation regarding Schurr.
“The Michigan State Police conducted the full criminal investigation of this matter. Once the investigative reports are provided to the City of Grand Rapids, the internal employment investigation can and will move forward,” Davis said. “In the event that the chief and the internal affairs division recommend suspension and/or termination, the city manager will make the ultimate decision regarding Christopher Schurr’s employment status.”
“This is a tough time for the city, for our community, and for the world,” Davis said. “The pursuit of justice is not always easy but it is always necessary. We must continue to put action behind our words…I will do everything in my power to ensure that the laws and processes are followed fully and transparently to help increase accountability.”
Grand Rapids Police Chief Winstrom concluded the speaker lineup for the press conference.
“I intend to recommend the city manager immediately suspend Officer Schurr without pay, pending termination,” Winstrom said. He went on to state that he intended to move the process toward termination.
“From what I’ve seen so far, the second degree murder charge and my employment decision will be made on those last few seconds of the incident only,” he said. “It’s a fact of the world that police officers aren’t above the law.”
Collegiate reporter James Herold contributed to this story.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Friday, June 10 at 1:05 a.m. to add new information. The original story was posted on Thursday, June 9 at 5:20 p.m.