Questions remain after video released from Patrick Lyoya's death
(GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.) It's been less than 24 hours since officials released video footage of the moments leading up to the death of Patrick Lyoya, and the images have produced more questions than answers.
Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom released multiple sources of video from the incident on Wednesday, including police camera, cell phone, and home security footage. A chase, a physical struggle, and the moment a GRPD officer killed Lyoya were all captured.
"From my view of the video the taser was deployed twice, the taser did not make contact and Mr. Lyoya was shot in the head, however, that's the only information that I have," said Winstrom.
It is unclear whether the taser was deployed before the physical altercation began or during it.
Dashcam video from the officer's vehicle shows him pulling Lyoya over. Officials said he was pulled over because his license plate didn't match the registration on the vehicle.
In the videos, Lyoya can be seen engaging in a physical struggle after Lyoya runs from the officer.
At certain points, the officer can be heard yelling "Let go of the taser."
But the officer’s body camera was shut off before the fatal shot.
"That technology is such that it's a record not only every time it turns on and off but every time the button is tapped,” Winstrom said. “So, to turn a body worn camera off once it's activated, the officer has to hold the button steady for three seconds. What we've seen in examining the information on that is that it was hit many times during that struggle. That was the first moment that it was held down for more than three seconds, that's what deactivated it."
It is unclear whether that action was intentional or accidental.
After several minutes of struggling, cell phone video shows Lyoya trying to get up as the officer is on top of him, then the officer shooting Lyoya in the back of the head.
The Lyoya family held a press release with their legal team, which includes civil rights attorney Ben Crump, on Thursday to share their heartbreak and confusion over the incident.
Crump said they believe the officer did not do enough to deescalate the situation.
"All he had to do was call for backup and wait and this matter would have ended so differently,“ said Crump. "It is an unjustifiable use of deadly force because the police escalated a traffic stop into an execution and that's why we are demanding justice for Patrick."
Crump said the family wants the officer fired and prosecuted.
"His mother and father and their family are asking for that the state attorney charge him to the full extent of the law for killing their son, for breaking their hearts, for making his young children orphans, fatherless. Equal justice requires it,” Crump said.
While the officer can be seen in the video, his name has not been released.
"I'm gonna treat the officer like I would anybody else," Winstrom said earlier this week. "We don't name suspects. If the officer is charged with a crime, we will be naming him at that time."
The identity of the officer is one of the biggest questions the family and their legal team want answered.
"They want the identity of the police officer to be known so they can know his history," said Crump. "I can guarantee you they're gonna do everything in their power to try to learn the history of Patrick and to assassinate his character. But just like his father said, they wanna be secret about what blood may be on their hands."
The only information released about the officer so far is that he joined the department in 2015.
Winstrom said that he cannot say if the officer will face disciplinary action within the department until the investigation is complete.
Winstrom, a nationally recognized use of force expert, left the Chicago Police Department to become chief for the GRPD on March 7. He said Lyoya's death is a tragedy.
"The loss of life in any circumstance is sad and when I know that it's gonna impact our city like this, it was more sadness," Winstrom said. "Me being so new here. It was sad."
The Michigan State Police are in charge of the investigation. After their investigation is complete, it will be sent to the prosecutor's office.
"While the videos released today are an important piece of evidence, they are not all of the evidence," Kent County Prosecutor Christopher Becker said in a statement released Wednesday. "Our office has never made, and will not make, a decision based on partial evidence. By law, we are required to review all available evidence before we consider whether charges should be filed, and if so, what appropriate charges should be. This careful consideration of all evidence is a very important step in our criminal justice system."
Community members have held multiple protests since Lyoya’s death, demanding to know why a traffic stop such as this had to end in death.
Multiple people shared their frustrations and experiences with the GRPD during public comment at the city commission meeting Tuesday night.
The GRPD has been criticized multiple times in the past for its handling of incidents with Black citizens, including holding five unarmed Black children at gunpoint and handcuffing a Black 11-year-old at gunpoint. Both of those incidents occurred in 2017.
A traffic study released by the city the same year showed Black drivers in the city were twice as likely to be pulled over by the police compared to white drivers.
This story has been updated to include information from Thursday’s press conference.
Very sad story.