NewsShooting death of Patrick Lyoya


WMU Law professor says if federal probe is opened, the 4th and 5th amendments will be key in Lyoya case

WMU Law professor says if federal probe is opened, the 4th and 5th amendments will be key in the case.
Posted at 7:05 PM, Apr 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-26 20:03:06-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Last Friday morning, April 22, Civil Rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton flew into town to do the eulogy for Patrick Lyoya’s funeral at Renaissance Church of God in Christ.

Over a thousand people — including family, friends, state and local officials — joined the Congolese community in mourning the 26-year-old’s death.

Before them, Reverend Sharpton said he’s calling on the justice department to step in and conduct their own investigation into Lyoya’s death.

“I’m not going to desecrate the local authorities. But, I want to call on the federal justice department. We need the justice department to investigate this death,” Reverend Sharpton said at the podium at the front of the church. “We have reason to not just want to wait on the local prosecutor. We don’t want local politics to compromise justice. We’re calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene and to stand up for the civil rights of Patrick Lyoya.”

Peter Lyoya told FOX 17 in an interview this week that he too would like the justice department to step in and open an investigation into his son’s death.

On Monday morning April 4, Patrick Lyoya was fatally shot in the back of the head by a Grand Rapids police officer — identified by GRPD as Christopher Schurr — during a traffic stop near the intersection of Nelson and Griggs.

Reverend Sharpton said at the podium that there was intent to use a deadly weapon and reiterated his call for a federal investigation.

Western Michigan University Law Prof. Lewis Langham said if that should happen, the DOJ will look to see if Lyoya’s constitutional rights were violated, he said.

“[Reverend Sharpton] is looking to have the federal government investigate as to whether or not there is some type of constitutional law violation,” Langham said, who’s professor emeritus at WMU's Cooley Law School. “[They’re] probably looking at Section 242 Title 18, which basically makes it a crime for a police officer or others in their profession similar, when they’re acting under the authority of their job, to deny someone their constitutional right.”

Langham spoke with FOX 17 on Monday afternoon via Zoom. He said specifically the justice department would look at the fourth amendment and the overall traffic stop.

“The traffic stop, as it relates to the license plate ... that was a legitimate stop,” Langham said. “But, I think they may be looking at the question as to why. What drew their attention to Patrick Lyoya in the first place, that you even looked at his license plate. So, that could be something that they’re looking at under the fourth amendment.”

Langham said that officers cannot stop anyone under false pretenses. He added that the DOJ may look at the fifth amendment and double jeopardy.

“If for some reason if the officer is charged, if he’s found not guilty, looking down the road, if that were to happen, you can still seek federal charges and that'd be considered double jeopardy under the fifth amendment because the federal government and state government are considered separate sovereigns,” he said. 

Currently, Michigan State Police is conducting its investigation into the fatal officer-involved shooting. Langham said once they wrap, it’ll head to Prosecutor Chris Becker, who will then determine if criminal charges should be brought.

However, he said it’s up to the justice department if they should get involved and when.

For now, the request is an avenue Lyoya’s legal team, led by civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Ven Johnson, is seeking in order to bring justice to the family.

“Whatever and however the federal government gets involved they will make a decision whether or not they want to, and if they do there may not even be a federal civil rights type violation,” Langham said. “They could look at it and determine there isn’t an issue here.”

READ MORE: GRPD explains process behind releasing officer's name in Lyoya shooting

Follow FOX 17: Facebook - Twitter - Instagram - YouTube