GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) has released a statement in response to the video depicting the shooting death of Patrick Lyoya.
The Grand Rapids Police Department released video of the incident on Wednesday.
GRPS calls the incident a “traumatic stressor” on its children, noting that 80% of those within the school district are students of color.
“This is a pain that they know all too well,” Superintendent Leadriane Roby, Ph.D. writes. “As such, the struggle to reconcile the painful realities of this situation - previously far away from our city - is now on our front porch.”
Roby’s full statement reads:
"Dear GRPS Community,
"On April 4, 2022, Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old Congolese American man, was shot and killed by a Grand Rapids Police Department officer. This incident is currently under investigation by the Michigan State Police. The Grand Rapids Police Department released the video footage today.
"African immigrants and refugees make up a significant portion of the Grand Rapids Public Schools’ scholars and community. Many families came to Grand Rapids (and the U.S.) fleeing violence in their home countries to find peace. Nevertheless, they now experience the place of their refuge becoming a source of the trauma from which they fled. However, even amid this tragedy, they seek compassion and justice.
"People of color, be they born in the U.S. or abroad, and come from communities that find strength in collectivism. Sharing is an integral part of their lives. These communities too, are sharing the grief with this Congolese family. The incident on April 4th is considered a traumatic event or traumatic stressor.
"According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, traumatic stress occurs when a child experiences an intense event that threatens or causes harm to his/her/their emotional and physical well-being. One of these stressors can be community violence. Please see resources for Trauma Care from our Behavior Health Program Staff here - https://www.grps.org/health-services.
"Nearly 80% of our school community is comprised of students of color and within that an immigrant population that is more than 40% African. As a district, we are positioned to support our community as details and information continue to unfold. We take this position seriously. Though this is a fresh tragedy, it speaks to a familiar pain felt by communities of color. This is a pain that they know all too well. As such, the struggle to reconcile the painful realities of this situation - previously far away from our city - is now on our front porch.
"We are keenly aware that this is a time to be conscious of our commitment to a community of excellence through our shared vision of a just and equitable society. We recognize that people may be feeling an array of emotions, uncertainty, and heaviness. Our success hinges upon our ability to act and support. That said, we encourage you to be mindful of your feelings and biases, take care of yourselves and each other, and seek support when you need it."
GRPS offers the following resources for those who believe they may benefit from them:
- GRPS Behavioral Health Department: (616) 819-1773 or Behavioralhealth@grps.org.
- Mental Health Clinicians of Color and on Facebook.
- Explaining the News to Our Kids
- Helping Children with Tragic Events in the News
- How Can Parents Help Their Children?
The Kent County Welcome Plan also released a statement in response to Lyoya’s death, adding it will continue to offer its services to New Americans in West Michigan.
The Kent County Welcome Plan’s full statement reads:
"The Welcome Plan for Kent County Steering Committee recognizes that our community, especially our Black, Immigrant and Refugee Communities, are impacted by the shooting of Patrick Lyoya on April 4. When critical incidents are seen through the eyes of language barriers, various cultural orientations, and trauma associated with a lifetime of fleeing violence or persecution, we recognize the importance of listening to the voices of New Americans to make our community feel safe for all. Over the past decades, West Michigan has become home to upwards of 5,000 Congolese individuals and families that sought refuge in a community that is safe. The Welcome Plan contains specific recommendations to build understanding and safety for New Americans and law enforcement and improve access to information and service when and prior to critical incidents that may take place.
"The Welcome Plan Steering Committee members are committed to working in solidarity with our community to see the recommendations of the Welcome Plan carried out, ensuring West Michigan is a place that New Americans belong, where their voices and lives matter, and they will continue to call home. Join us as we work together to create a community environment with shared goals of inclusion and social cohesion, that maximizes the contributions of all residents, and gives community members the tools and policy they need to thrive. Please contact us at email@example.com or visit us at kentcountynewamericans.org to learn more and join the Welcome Plan efforts. Also, follow Mental Health Clinicians of Color Grand Rapids, Glimpse of Africa, and the Black Impact Collaborative (BIC) on Facebook who have additional resources and upcoming events for the community to process this tragedy."
The Ottawa County Democratic Party (OCDP) says the videos serve as a reminder that the United States has “a long way to go.”
OCDP Chair Tim Smith’s full statement reads:
"Today I watched the tragic killing of Patrick Lyoya at the hands of law enforcement in Grand Rapids. These types of videos are a continued reminder that we as a country still have a long way to go. As a Black American man, it tears my heart out by the countless number of deaths of Black Americans by individuals that are supposed to protect and serve. Turns out to be more on line with an individual with a license to kill, especially if you are a Black American. How many of you reading this have had “the talk” with your son or daughter? You know, the talk on how to respond to a police officer; no sudden moves, be polite, keep your hands in plain sight. If you look like me, all of you. If you do not, you have not had ‘the talk.’
"As the Chair of the Ottawa County Democratic Party, it pains me to say that we believe in equal justice for all and that no one’s life should be taken if there is no clear sign of danger to anyone, especially an ‘unarmed’ man or woman, no matter the color of their skin.
Our utmost condolences go out to Patrick’s family and I pray that once the facts from the investigation are completed that justice will be served."
Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington offers his condolences to Lyoya's family, adding the city will issue updates if necessary as demonstrations continue.
Washington's full statement reads:
"It has been nearly two weeks since the tragic officer involved shooting which resulted in the death of Patrick Lyoya. Many in our community – including myself – continue to grapple with what’s happened. I continue to offer my condolences to the Lyoya family and I am committed to full transparency and to find ways to have trusted policing. Each of us are processing in our own way as we navigate the range of emotions these events bring out. For some, that involves difficult private conversations with friends, family, and faith leaders. For others, it means engaging more publicly at City Commission meetings, community forums, and even demonstrating in the streets. All are valid ways of working through what our community is currently experiencing while we await the results of the Michigan State Police (MSP) investigation. I am hopeful MSP will expedite their investigation to help provide the community with further clarity around what happened.
"Over the course of the last week there have been a number of protest and marches. I fully expect more in the coming days and – as always – we support our residents exercising their First Amendment Rights. We are aware of a number of special events happening throughout our city this weekend and City staff are making the necessary arrangements to ensure everyone – regardless of their reason for being in our community – will have a safe and positive experience.
"Activists, community leaders, and the Lyoya family continue to call for calm and peace. The demonstrations that have occurred to this point have been peaceful and I have every expectation they will remain so. If you intend to make your way downtown this weekend, please give yourself a little extra time to account for potential detours or traffic delays. We will continue to monitor the situation throughout the weekend to prioritize community safety and provide updates and direction as needed."
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