Grand Rapids police to release video of man's fatal shooting next week

Sarah Rahal Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Grand Rapids — Amid calls for the release of video from an incident involving a man fatally shot by police, with some alleging an "execution," the city's police chief on Friday said footage would be released within seven days. 

Patrick Lyoya, 26, was shot Monday by a Grand Rapids officer when police said he fought during a traffic stop related to a license plate issue, officials said.

The officer, who joined the department in 2015, has been placed on administrative leave as Michigan State Police investigate the incident, the city said.

Grand Rapids police Chief Eric Winstrom said Friday in a statement that he told MSP and the Kent County prosecutor that he planned to release video from the incident "no later than noon" on April 15.

"Since this tragic event occurred on Monday morning and in the hours and days that followed, I have been consistent in my commitment to transparency," the statement said.

"I have publicly stated my intention to release the video next week and I intend to keep that promise. I have also committed to protecting the integrity of the investigation in the interests of justice and accountability."

Patrick Lyoya

MSP did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

In a Facebook post, Kent County Commissioner Robert Womack denounced the shooting, saying the officer involved should be fired and charged.

"... This was an execution," he said Wednesday. "... Gun violence by my community, or by the police, will not be tolerated. This man was murdered in a way that I cannot accept."

Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said he requested that police not release any evidence until the investigation is complete.

Becker has asked the Police Department to delay the release of the video and associated evidence related to the shooting, Jennifer Kalczuk, acting spokeswoman for the Grand Rapids Police Department, told The Detroit News on Friday.

"We share the community’s desire to have transparent and timely access to relevant information regarding this incident but also understand Mr. Becker’s concerns," Kalczuk said. "We will continue to work with Mr. Becker’s office to release the relevant video in a way that protects the integrity of the investigation while honoring our commitment to access and accountability."

Womack said attorney Ben Crump, who led George Floyd's family's legal team, had promised to travel to Grand Rapids to demand the release of the video.

"Prosecutor Chris Becker has left us no choice but to seek statewide and national intervention," Womack said. "I am writing a letter to Attorney General Dana Nessel to let her know that a young man was shot in the back of the head by law enforcement while laying down and I am witnessing inconsistencies with the process. GRPD releases videos of black men awaiting trial on T.V. during investigations but not the videos of police when they are wrong."

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The Lyoya family emigrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2014. The family lives in Lansing; Patrick Lyoya lived in Grand Rapids.

Womack said he took the family to meet Winstrom; however, they were not able to let the father see Patrick Lyoya's body due to investigation policies.

The family's native language is Swahili. Womack, Israel Siku, who serves as the interpreter of the 700-plus members of Congolese community in west Michigan, and Patrick Lyoya's father were shown video of the incident, Fox 17 reported. 

Siku told The Detroit News the video showed that while Lyoya was lying down, the officer "shot him in the back of the head, point blank."

"My body went cold," Siku said Friday night. "The father broke down. He was crying. He was confused. He couldn't even talk for a minute. ...It was painful to watch." 

Siku said Lyoya's family disputes the police account of the incident, including that a traffic stop was involved.

"I want justice," he said. "I want the officer to be prosecuted."

Grand Rapids police said the incident occurred around 8:11 a.m. Monday after an officer initiated a traffic stop on a vehicle near the intersection of Griggs and Nelson.

Siku said the family believes Lyoya hadn't been pulled over and instead had been checking on a sound his car was making when the officer approached.

The driver exited the vehicle and then fled the scene on foot while a passenger remained inside, the city said.

"Following a brief foot pursuit, a physical altercation between the officer and the driver took place that lasted for several minutes," officials said. The officer fired his weapon, according to the statement.

Police said the officer was injured in the altercation but was examined at the scene and did not require transportation to a hospital.

Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington said in a statement: “These types of incidents are tragic and traumatic for everyone involved. While it has been a very long time since our community was forced to navigate a situation such as this, we’ve done the work upfront to establish policies and procedures that ensure a transparent and just process.”  

Grand Rapids police have been criticized in recent years for how officers have handled incidents with people of color, leading to multiple internal investigations launched by state police.

The city settled a lawsuit for $190,000 with a former Marine who was arrested by police in November 2018 and was wrongfully turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials for deportation.

The year prior, an 11-year-old girl was wrongfully handcuffed at gunpoint after officers entered the wrong home. Last year, footage showed an officer punching a 25-year-old man after a traffic stop.

Winstrom was sworn into the department on March 7, replacing Chief Eric Payne after he served two years. Before Payne, Dave Rahinsky served as police chief from 2014-19.

Meanwhile, Lyoya's family has launched a GoFundMe campaign to pay for a funeral.

"Patrick was a father of 2 daughters and a big brother to 5 siblings," the website said. "Patrick loved playing soccer and spending time with his loved ones but now he can’t do that anymore."

candlelight vigil is planned on Saturday at the Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation.

"They ran away from a war-torn country to find safety in America only to find more pain," Womack said. "The shooting of their son is devastating. We thank the Chief for being accessible to answer as many questions as legally possible... The father was very sad that he drove so far (from Lansing) to see his son’s body and was denied that opportunity."

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_