A state district court judge decided on Monday that a former police officer who shot and killed an unarmed Black man during a traffic stop in Grand Rapids, Michigan in April will be tried for second-degree murder.
In an opinion read from the bench at a hearing on Monday, Judge Nicholas S. Ayoub ruled that there was probable cause to indict former officer Christopher Schurr for second-degree murder in the April 4 death of Patrick Lyoya.
According to Judge Ayoub, there was “little dispute” that Mr. Lyoya died “from the gunshot wound to the head inflicted by defendant,” and that video evidence of the fatal encounter “highly infers” that Mr. Schurr “knew he was aiming the pistol and discharging it at close range” of Mr. Lyoya’s head.
Judge Ayoub said that whether Mr. Schurr’s “actions were justified under the law” was the “only truly disputed point here.”
A trial “is the next stage in our effort for securing full and complete justice for the murder of Patrick Lyoya,” said attorneys Ven Johnson and Ben Crump in a statement released on behalf of Mr. Lyoya’s family.
Our legal team is committed to holding both former Grand Rapids police officer Christopher Schurr and the city of Grand Rapids responsible for his acts, and they have promised to keep fighting towards this end.
The Grand Rapids Police Department terminated Mr. Schurr’s employment in June.
An attorney representing Mr. Schurr, Matthew Borgula, said that the defense team was unhappy but “not particularly shocked” by the judge’s ruling “given the relatively low burden at this level of the proceedings.”
In a statement, Mr. Borgula said, “Chris Schurr maintains his innocence and we think that he will be exonerated at trial as the evidence overwhelmingly reveals that he is not guilty of crime.”
Criminals convicted of second-degree murder in Michigan may be sentenced to life in prison. Lawyers for Mr. Lyoya’s family stated no trial date has been scheduled yet.
After police in Grand Rapids, Michigan published tapes of the traffic stop that led to the murder of 26-year-old Mr. Lyoya, the community erupted in outrage.
The recordings show Mr. Lyoya being pulled over by an officer, subsequently revealed to be Mr. Schurr, on the morning of April 4 when he is driving through a residential neighborhood. In the footage, Mr. Lyoya can be seen getting out of his vehicle before being told by the police officer to go back inside. When the police officer meets Mr. Lyoya, he immediately wants to know whether he can communicate with him in English.
Mr. Lyoya claims to be fluent in the language and wonders, “What did I do wrong?”
The police takes Mr. Lyoya after a lengthy discussion regarding whether he has a driver’s license; Mr. Lyoya breaks free and begins to flee.
An cop runs up to Mr. Lyoya and tackles him on the grass, shouting, “Stop!
Mr. Lyoya seems to be trying to steady himself when the music begins. Mr. Lyoya can be seen reaching for the Taser held by the cop at one point in the body camera clip. In April, after the video was released, Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom said he thought the Taser had been deployed twice during the incident, but that neither shot had been successful.
Unfortunately, the officer’s body camera cuts off in the middle of the action. At a press conference in April, Chief Winstrom claimed that the camera was turned off by force. It was unclear who exerted the force or if it was even deliberate.
The officer’s car camera, a neighboring doorbell security system, and a bystander’s smartphone all caught distinct angles of the interaction. Cop says “Let go of the Taser” as Mr. Lyoya pushes up off the ground, with the officer on top of him, right before firing the fatal shot.