Police union defends Grand Rapids cop who fatally shot Lyoya

Francis X. Donnelly
The Detroit News

The police union that represents an officer who fatally shot a man in the back of the head after a traffic stop defended his actions Tuesday.

The Grand Rapids Police Officers Association said in a statement that it believed a thorough review of the shooting will show Officer Chris Schurr had the legal right to protect himself in a “volatile dangerous situation.”

Police are trained that a simple traffic stop can quickly turn dangerous, said the union. It's difficult to imagine the stress, fear, exhaustion and challenges an officer faces in volatile incidents, it said.

“Police officers are often required to march into episodes that turn dangerous for the officer,” the union said. “A police officer has the obligation to protect themselves, fellow officers and the community.”

Grand Rapids Police Officer Christopher Schurr stops to talk with a resident, Wednesday, August 12, 2015, in Grand Rapids. Grand Rapids police have identified Schurr as the officer who killed Patrick Lyoya on April 4.

The union said its statement wasn’t meant to take away from the heartache being experienced by the family of Patrick Lyoya, who was killed by Schurr in the shooting April 4.

When the police group described the reasons a traffic stop could turn dangerous, it pointed out several that pertained to Lyoya but didn't mention his incident specifically.

The subject of a police stop may have violent incidents in his past, may have outstanding arrest warrants and, if a struggle ensues, may try to gain control of the officer’s weapon, said the union.

Video was captured of Grand Rapids Police Officer Christopher Schurr struggling with and shooting Patrick Lyoya on April 4.

Lyoya, since coming to Michigan from Congo in 2014, was convicted twice of assaulting women and had an arrest warrant for domestic violence. During the April 4 incident, he appeared to wrestle with the officer for control of his stun gun.

“Critically, when assessing a tragic police officer-involved matter such as this, all facets must be scrutinized, including the history and volatility of the parties involved,” the union said.

The union's statement came one day after Schurr's name was released by the city's police department following pressure from local and national civil rights leaders.

On Tuesday, the Greater Grand Rapids NAACP demanded that Schurr be fired, the Kent County prosecutor recuse himself from the investigation and the Michigan Attorney General's Office take it over.

Attorneys for Lyoya’s family have criticized Schurr for pursuing Lyoya during the scuffle but the union said a fleeing subject could pose a risk to the community. It pointed out an unrelated incident last week when an armed man fleeing police entered someone’s home.

The union also defended Schurr away from his job as a police officer.

He doesn’t have any criminal convictions and was extensively involved in community work, both locally and internationally, according to the union.

Schurr worked in a juvenile detention facility helping young people through difficult struggles, said the police group. He also took several missionary trips to Kenya and was married there.

Those experiences provided him with wide cultural awareness and sensitivity for his job as a police officer, said the union.

In 2014, he graduated magna cum laude from Siena Heights University with a bachelor’s degree in business accounting and a minor in criminal justice, said the police group.

"The GRPOA stands with Officer Schurr and will continue to give him and his family whatever support they need,” the union said.


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