GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Daily protests have taken place here since April 12, when police released a video showing the fatal shooting of unarmed Patrick Lyoya by a Grand Rapids cop following a traffic stop. Lyoya, 26, worked in an auto-parts factory and had two children. He immigrated here from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2014 with his parents and siblings.
“I didn’t know that here in America there can be execution-style … to be killed by the police officer,” Peter Lyoya, Patrick’s father, said at a news conference April 14. Attorneys representing the family are calling for the cop who killed Lyoya to be identified, fired and prosecuted.
The videos of the April 4 shooting include recordings from the officer’s body camera, a squad-car camera, a nearby home security system and a cellphone taken by Lyoya’s passenger.
They show Lyoya being pulled over by the lone officer while driving through a residential neighborhood around 8 a.m. Lyoya gets out of his car and seems confused, asking the cop why he was being stopped. The cop says the license plate doesn’t match the vehicle and asks if he has a driver’s license. Lyoya points to the wallet on the seat but then starts to walk away. Instead of waiting for more officers to arrive, the cop tries to detain Lyoya himself and Lyoya runs.
A series of scuffles take place. The officer pulls out his Taser and fires it a couple times at close quarters. It’s unclear whether it hits Lyoya. As they grapple the young man’s hand lands on the stun gun. The cop can be heard yelling, “Let go of the Taser.” About a minute later the cop has wrestled Lyoya to the ground and is holding him face down. As Lyoya tries to stand back up, the cop gets out his gun and fires one shot to the young man’s head.
The officer was placed on administrative leave. The county prosecutor, Chris Becker, opposed releasing the videos until the Michigan State Police finish an investigation into the shooting. More than 100 people marched to the Grand Rapids City Commission meeting April 12 protesting the shooting, and authorities released the recordings the next day.
Authorities should “release the cop’s identity. Hold him responsible for every action he did, ” Jimmy Barwan, Lyoya’s cousin, told reporters at a rally of several hundred people April 14. “We’ve seen the whole video. How can you feel in danger when you’re holding somebody.”
Lyoya had “just bought the car so he could go to work,” Barwan said. “We didn’t come here to feel like animals.”
“Charges have to come and have to come quickly,” Bernie Langerak told the Militant April 17 in front of the makeshift memorial on the street where Lyoya was shot. He had stopped by to lay a flower there, as many others have done. “All communities should be concerned, not just the Black community.” He was glad to see the protests and that they’ve stayed peaceful.
“This was unnecessary, it breaks my heart,” said Tameeka Aleman, who lives a block from where the shooting happened. The cop’s actions were “strictly about power,” she added. “He could have called for backup. He could have let Lyoya run.”
That was the common sentiment among workers in the neighborhood who this reporter spoke to.
That evening, Easter Sunday, nearly 50 people rallied again downtown, for the fifth day in a row. “I’ve been at every protest,” said Deandre Jones. He and others said they would continue to demonstrate until charges are brought.
The funeral for Lyoya has been set for April 22.