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WATCH: Lyoya family attorneys detail lawsuit against former GRPD officer, city of Grand Rapids

Patrick Lyoya
Lyoya, Schurr MSP report
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Officer Christopher Schurr chases Patrick Lyoya on April 4, 2022
Posted at 3:40 PM, Dec 06, 2022

DETROIT, Mich. — Attorneys for Patrick Lyoya’s family detailed a civil lawsuit filed against former Grand Rapids Police Department officer Christopher Schurr and the city of Grand Rapids Wednesday.

During a press conference, attorneys Ven Johnson and Ben Crump presented what they call “overwhelming evidence” that Patrick was racially profiled, and that unnecessary force was used the day he was killed.

WATCH - Full press conference:

Lyoya family files civil lawsuit against former GRPD officer, city of Grand Rapids

Lyoya, a 26-year-old Black man, died Monday, April 4 following a traffic stop near the intersection of Griggs and Nelson on the city's southeast side.

Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom released video footage on April 13 which shows Officer Christopher Schurr shooting Lyoya in the head following a foot chase and struggle.

Lyoya, Schurr MSP report

Johnson and Crump presented video taken from three cameras (Schurr’s body camera, Schurr’s dash camera and smartphone video from Lyoya’s passenger) synced together.

Before the video played, Johnson said the incident began when Schurr and Lyoya passed each other on the street, explaining Schurr could not have seen Lyoya’s license plate before then.

The video began with Schurr turning out of a residential driveway to follow Lyoya. Johnson notes Schurr’s lights and sirens were not active during this time, which he says is required when an officer is pursuing an individual believed to have engaged in illegal activity. Johnson states this is evidence in favor of the argument that Schurr is racially profiling Lyoya.

Shortly after, Lyoya’s vehicle is seen pulling off to the side of the road with his brake lights on. Lyoya exits the vehicle, at which Schurr commands him to get back inside. Johnson says it’s unlikely Schurr could have obtained information on Lyoya’s license plate given the short period of time between when the license plate is in view compared to when Lyoya steps out of the car.

Schurr approaches Lyoya, and Lyoya asks, “What did I do?” several times.

During the confrontation, Crump points out how no weapon is visible on Lyoya’s waistline.

Schurr is heard asking to see Lyoya’s license when Lyoya pauses in front of the driver’s seat, closes the door and begins to walk away toward the front side of the car.

Johnson stresses that Lyoya is seen walking away from Schurr as opposed to running. Whether Lyoya intended to retreat to the sidewalk where it was safer from the road is not known, Johnson says.

As Lyoya walks away, Johnson says Schurr grabs Lyoya from behind and tries to turn him around. At this point in the video, Johnson told attendees that officers are required to use as little force as possible, claiming Schurr’s actions so far are in defiance of his training.

A foot chase ensues around the rear of the car. Johnson says Schurr has a history of athleticism and so a foot race would have been no contest.

A struggle ensues, during which Johnson claims Lyoya is only trying to keep Schurr’s hands off of him.

During the scuffle, the phone camera from Lyoya’s passenger’s phone starts recording the altercation.

Lyoya and Schurr stand up when Schurr draws his Taser. The Taser is deployed the first time, and Schurr is heard yelling, “Let go of the Taser!”

Schurr gets on top of Lyoya when the Taser is deployed a second time. When this happens, Johnson says the Taser is pointed straight into the ground. It short-circuits in the wet ground, causing a loud pop.

Johnson says this point of the video is important because Taser’s only hold two rounds before all that remains is the stun function. Johnson explains the stun function is ineffective at incapacitating a human target.

The struggle resumes, at which point Lyoya’s passenger calls out to both of them.

Then Schurr pulls out his gun and shoots Lyoya in the back of the head.

Johnson pauses the video to explain officers are forbidden to shoot someone while their back is turned, citing a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ruling in question, Tennessee v. Garner, states deadly force is only acceptable if a subject is believed to be a serious physical threat.

Johnson states Schurr had no reason to be in fear for his life during the encounter.

The video plays once more during the aftermath of the altercation, at which Johnson notes Schurr is heard calling in an officer-involved shooting.

After going over the video, Johnson pulled up a series of stills in which Lyoya is seen touching Schurr’s Taser. He says Lyoya only tries to push the Taser away without attempting to take it from Schurr.

Johnson also says Axon, the company that made Schurr’s Taser, inspected the device and confirmed that both rounds had been used and was no longer capable of incapacitating anyone. Johnson claims Schurr knew the Taser was no longer useful in that regard.

Schurr has been charged with second-degree murder for the shooting death of Lyoya.

The lawsuit includes two counts against Schurr for violating federal law in his use of force and gross negligence.

According to the lawsuit, the Lyoya family accuses Schurr of breaching his duties by failing to make a proper and lawful traffic stop, failure to deescalate, failure to wait for backup, failure to create sufficient space before deploying each taser probe, failure to warn Patrick of his intent to use force before he deployed his taser or gun, failure to use other methods of detainment of apprehension, and excessive use of deadly force with a gun.

The lawsuit also says the city of Grand Rapids is liable for federal law and more violations because it “created the atmosphere at GRPD, which influenced Schurr to use excessive force." The lawsuit claims the city has an ongoing practice or custom of racial discrimination.

According to Johnson and Crump, Grand Rapids received nearly 90 citizen complaints of excessive force by GRPD officers.

Schurr was placed on leave after the shooting before eventually being fired from the Grand Rapids Police Department over the past five years, but every officer was cleared of wrongdoing.

In October, it was determined there is enough evidence to move forward with a criminal trial against Schurr.

Read the full complaint:

Amended Complaint - Lyoya family civil lawsuit by WXMI on Scribd

READ MORE: Our complete coverage of the shooting death of Patrick Lyoya

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