'We believe there will be justice for Patrick': Pastor at Lyoya vigil leads mourners in chant
Lansing — Mourners gathered Saturday with the family of Patrick Lyoya as they called for justice for their eldest son, who was fatally shot by a Grand Rapids police officer during a traffic stop earlier this month.
About 100 people attended the vigil Saturday at the Epicenter of Worship church in Lansing to share their condolences during the hour-long service.
Fifteen members of the Lyoya family stood together at the forefront of the colorful church's atrium wearing matching black shirts reading "In loving memory."
"To lose my son, my firstborn, at 26 years old, I can say he was a loving man, a loving brother," his father, Peter Lyoya said. "I have lost Patrick and I don't want to say this. I just want justice."
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Mourners stood and applauded as Epicenter of Worship Pastor Sean Holland chanted, "We believe there will be justice for Patrick."
"Justice is the only option," he said. "It is not by accident that we stand between a global Christian holiday of Easter and Good Friday as it was during then that a man named Jesus was arrested and murdered at the hands of the state. There will be a resurrection and it's important we name what happened. Our brother was murdered."
Some community members also spoke at the lectern, including Fridah Kanini, founder of the local nonprofit A Glimpse of Africa, who said, "Despite our hearts being completely broken, we already have justice because our God is a God of justice."
Peter and Dorcas Lyoya, spoke out Thursday saying they left the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2014 to escape violence. They never expected to find it in America and were even more in shock that the person involved in physical force was a police officer.
Their eldest son, Patrick, was shot by an unidentified Grand Rapids Police Department officer after a traffic stop April 4. The two men struggled over the officer’s stun gun before Lyoya was shot in the back of the head while face down on the ground.
In roughly 20-minutes of footage released Wednesday by Grand Rapids Police, Lyoya can be heard saying, "Stop what you are doing, please" while the officer can be heard shouting to Lyoya "Let go of the Taser" before firing the fatal shot.
The body-worn camera deactivated during the struggle because it was held down for three seconds as the two men struggled and the officer's Taser fired twice into the ground, Police Chief Eric Winstrom said.
The Lyoya family wants to see the face of the person who killed Patrick and they want him charged with murder. The family has called for another protest at 4 p.m. Thursday in downtown Lansing with a march to the State Capitol.
The vigil ended with a moment of silence for Lyoya. The family asked people to spread their message through a hashtag, #Justice4Patrick, and told attendees not to speak to the media or provide interviews.
"We will stand with you for however long it takes," Holland told the family before departure. "You are not alone and we will preserve his memory."
The family's native language is Swahili. Israel Siku, who serves as the interpreter of the 700-plus members of the Congolese community in west Michigan, translated during the entire vigil before sharing his own view.
"When we are one mind, one soul and one spirit, we can break the walls of injustice," he said. "We will continue until we see it."
The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, founded in 2013 in wake of the acquittal of Trayvon Martin's shooting, issued a statement saying they stand with Lyoya's family in collective morning.
“Every single day, people fleeing violence from around the world come to America in pursuit of a dream that they soon learn is a lie, thanks to white supremacy. Patrick Lyoya’s dream was met with a bullet, his last moments caught on surveillance and cell phone video," the Foundation said in response to video footage released.
"Patrick experienced this as a refugee from the Republic of Congo, arriving to begin a new life for him and his family. His rights were violated one-by-one, escalated by an individual who many claim was supposed to keep him safe. The video shows the targeting, criminalization, and execution of Black bodies in real time. Patrick was denied human and civil rights by the very entity politicians embrace to maintain their own political power."