Lyoya super drunk under law when pulled over in fatal traffic stop, exam finds

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Grand Rapids — The blood-alcohol level of the man shot and killed by a Grand Rapids police officer last month was more than three times the legal limit, according to a Kent County Medical Examiner's autopsy and toxicology report released Monday to The Detroit News under a public records request. 

Lyoya's blood ethanol was 290 mg/dL, according to the report. That converts to a 0.29 BAC, more than three times Michigan's limit of 0.08 and higher than 0.17, which the state classifies as super drunk.

The seven-page report confirms the results of an independent autopsy last month: that Patrick Lyoya was shot in the back of the head. The time of death is listed as 8:33 a.m. Other than alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and the antihistamine diphenhydramine, no other drugs were found in Lyoya's system, according to the report.

Michigan State Police officials are still waiting for forensic evidence before concluding its investigation into the April 4 traffic stop in which Lyoya was killed by Grand Rapids police Officer Christopher Schurr.

Schurr is on administrative leave pending the results of the Michigan State Police investigation into the death of Lyoya, a 26-year-old Congolese immigrant. 

“Let’s talk about the real story, that the autopsy 100% confirms what we told everyone from Day One," said Ven Johnson, a Detroit attorney retained by Lyoya's family. "The gunshot wound was to the back to the head and the manner of death was homicide. Instead, people want to talk about booze. Alcohol to us is irrelevant as it relates to the cause and manner of death. Assuming the results are correct, and I’ll litigate at the time of trial, it is what it is. If this is accurate, then, yes, he was highly intoxicated. But the last time I checked, the penalty for drinking and driving is not execution.”

Michigan State Police officials told The Detroit News last month they were waiting for forensic reports from the manufacturer of Schurr's body camera and Taser.

Patrick Lyoya

"We are still waiting on some forensics to come back," Michigan State Police Lt. Michelle Robinson said in an email Saturday. "I do not have a timeline on when that will be."

State police detectives last month sent an initial investigation to Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker, who said in a written statement that MSP had "submitted an incomplete report." 

Becker said Monday he’s still waiting for those reports. “Those sometimes take a while,” he said.

Becker also said the autopsy release won’t nudge his investigation. “We already had that information (in the autopsy) before it was released,” he said.

At the time of his death, Lyoya was awaiting sentencing after being convicted of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, according to court records. Lyoya was convicted of drinking-and-driving-related crimes at least three times following arrests in Michigan and Illinois. 

Schurr, 31, reportedly stopped the vehicle because it had an improper license plate. It's unclear whether Schurr also suspected Lyoya was intoxicated, because every line of the officer's three-page use of force report was redacted in records obtained by The News.

After Lyoya pulled over, he got out of the car and after disobeying commands from Schurr, he ran a short distance into a nearby yard, according to video released by Grand Rapids police. Schurr chased him.

The two men struggled in the yard and Schurr deployed his stun gun twice without effect. Schurr could be heard saying "let go of the Taser" before he shot Lyoya in the back of the head while lying on top of him.

Police officials released portions of Schurr's personnel record, including 14 commendations he received, and information about two internal affairs investigations into him, including a traffic crash he was found to have caused.

Other parts of Schurr's record were blacked out.

Schurr was exonerated after a July 2021 internal investigation cleared him of a citizen's claims that the officer had stolen his grandmother's ashes during an arrest.

Lyoya's most recent drinking-and-driving arrest was in March 2021 near Wayland, about 20 miles south of Grand Rapids. He pleaded guilty to operating while intoxicated, third offense, and was to be sentenced on May 2.

Allegan County Circuit Court officials dismissed the case on April 8, four days after Lyoya was killed.

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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN