Family of Black refugee Patrick Lyoya sues Grand Rapids police officer for fatal shooting

The family of Patrick Lyoya, a Black man and Congolese refugee shot and killed by a Michigan police officer in April, filed a civil lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan on Wednesday against the city of Grand Rapids and the officer charged in the shooting. The 26-year-old Lyoya was fatally shot in the back of the head by Grand Rapids police officer Christopher Schurr following a struggle as Lyoya attempted to flee a traffic stop on April 4 on the city’s southeast side. The 31-year-old Schurr has been charged with second-degree murder in the case and is slated to stand trial in 2023.

The 12-page complaint claims Schurr violated Lyoya’s civil rights when he pursued Lyoya on foot and did not wait for backup before using lethal force. The family is seeking financial damages for Lyoya’s death, per the complaint.  Attorneys Ayanna Hatchett and Ven Johnson wrote in the complaint: “Schurr’s actions demonstrated a reckless disregard of his legal duties, as well as a substantial lack of concern for whether death or injury would result from his actions,”  adding Schurr’s actions “demonstrated a malicious risk of harm and an indifference to the consequences of his actions.” The lawsuit also says the city of Grand Rapids created a culture of excessive force by not appropriately responding to complaints against GRPD officers made in prior years.

Lawyers for Schurr maintain he was acting with appropriate use of force during the shooting. Schurr was initially placed on paid administrative leave before being fired after the second-degree murder charge was announced by Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker in June. After the Grand Rapids Police Department and city officials released footage of Lyoya’s shooting on April 13, protesters held several demonstrations and marches calling for accountability from the city’s police. Footage included video from Schurr’s body-worn camera, a surveillance camera from a nearby home and the cell phone of the passenger with Lyoya.

Editorial credit: Lester Graham / Shutterstock.com

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