‘An execution’: Patrick Lyoya’s family demands justice

A police officer in the US state of Michigan fatally shot Lyoya, 26, in the head during a traffic stop this month.

Peter Lyoya holds up a picture of his son Patrick, 26, in his home in Lansing, Michigan on April 14, 2022 [Anna Nichols/AP Photo]

Patrick Lyoya was “executed” by police, the 26-year-old Black man’s family and supporters have said, a day after authorities in the US state of Michigan released video footage showing an officer shoot Lyoya in the head as he was face down on the ground.

Lyoya, whose family is originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was fatally shot on April 4 following a traffic stop in Grand Rapids, Michigan, about 240km (150 miles) northwest of Detroit.

Speaking during a news conference on Thursday, Lyoya’s father, Peter Lyoya, said he never imagined that his eldest son could be killed by a police officer in the United States. “When I saw the video, my heart was deeply broken,” he said through a translator.

“Right now, my life has come to an end. My life was Patrick, my son,” Peter Lyoya told reporters.

“To see that my son has been killed like an animal by this police officer, to see this video they showed, I see that I have no life, I see my heart being broken,” he said. “I’m asking for justice. I’m asking for justice for Patrick.”

Police camera footage shows Patrick Lyoya during the traffic stop that led to his death
Police in Grand Rapids released footage of the fatal April 4 shooting this week [Grand Rapids Police/Handout via Reuters]

Lyoya’s killing has set off protests and renewed calls for an end to police violence against Black people in the US, where Black Lives Matter protests have been held since 2020. That year, an officer killed another unarmed Black man, George Floyd, during an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota – spurring widespread anger and demands for change.

Citing a need for transparency, police in Grand Rapids released videos on Wednesday showing the fatal shooting, including critical footage recorded by a passenger in Lyoya’s car that morning.

They show Lyoya stepping out of the car on a rainy street, seemingly confused and asking “What did I do?” as the officer repeatedly asks for a driver’s licence and orders him to get back inside the vehicle.

Video shows Lyoya running from the officer, who stopped him for driving with a licence plate that did not belong to the vehicle. They struggled in front of several homes and the officer repeatedly ordered Lyoya to “let go” of his Taser, at one point demanding: “Drop the Taser!”

Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom said on Wednesday that the fight over the Taser lasted about 90 seconds. In the final moments, the officer was on top of Lyoya, kneeling on his back at times to subdue him.

“From my view of the video, Taser was deployed twice. Taser did not make contact,” Winstrom told reporters. “And Mr Lyoya was shot in the head. However, that’s the only information that I have.”

During Thursday’s news conference, prominent US civil rights lawyer Ben Crump said the videos showed an “unnecessary, unjustifiable, [and] excessive use of fatal force. You see a police officer escalate a minor traffic stop into a deadly execution.”

There was no reason for the officer to shoot Lyoya, said Crump, adding that the family is calling on authorities to charge the officer “to the full extent of the law for killing their son, for breaking their hearts, for making his young children orphans”.

“The video shows us that this is as his mother, father have said – an execution. There’s no way to try to spin it or justify it,” Crump told reporters. “That’s why we’re demanding justice for Patrick.”

Grand Rapids police officials have placed the officer involved in the shooting, who has not been named publicly, on administrative leave and have asked the Michigan State Police to investigate.

Prosecutors in Kent County told CNN on Wednesday that they will make a decision on possible criminal charges once the probe is complete.

US Representative Brenda Lawrence of Michigan on Wednesday called for “full accountability and transparency”.

“For Black Americans in Michigan and across the country, we are all too familiar with this injustice. We don’t need another march. We don’t need another hashtag. We don’t need thoughts and prayers. We need action,” she said in a statement.

Protesters march in Grand Rapids, Michigan
Protesters march in response to Lyoya’s killing in Grand Rapids on April 13, 2022 [Cody Scanlan/Holland Sentinel/USA TODAY via Reuters]

Last year, activists had called on the US Congress to pass police reform legislation named after George Floyd, the unarmed Black man whose killing at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, set off nationwide protests.

But Republicans and Democrats in the Senate could not reach an agreement.

During Thursday’s news conference, Robert Womack, a member of the board of commissioners of Kent County, Michigan, read out the names of Black people killed by police in the US in recent years: “Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Patrick Lyoya.”

“From the time we’ve come to this country, the United States of America, which we call home, we’ve been begging you just to let us live. We’ve been asking you to let us breathe,” Womack said.

“They just passed the anti-lynching bill into law; does it take a law for humanity to understand that certain marginalised communities don’t deserve to be lynched, shot or executed?”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies