GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapids Police Department has released the name of the officer who fatally shot 26-year-old Patrick Lyoya earlier this month.
“In the interest of transparency, to reduce on-going speculation, and to avoid any further confusion, I am confirming the name already publicly circulating — Christopher Schurr — as the officer involved in the April 4 Officer Involved Shooting,” GRPD Chief Eric Winstrom said in a Monday release.
Schurr is on administrative leave, stripped of his police powers, until both the internal investigation from GRPD and the separate investigation from Michigan State Police are complete, Winstrom said.
In a statement, City Manager Mark Washington said Winstrom had given him a heads up he was releasing Schurr’s name. He said he “support(s) the decision and appreciates (Winstrom’s) leadership and commitment to transparency.”
The announcement comes after weeks of family, community members and civil rights activists — including Rev. Al Sharpton’s at Patrick Lyoya’s funeral last week — calling on GRPD to release the officer’s name. Winstrom previously said he would not release the name unless or until the officer was charged.
“Are you saying … that if he’s never charged, we’ll never know his name? Are you setting a legal precedent now that if a policeman kills somebody on video tape that he’s holding down and shoots in the back of the head, that if the grand jury don’t charge him, that we will never know his name?” Sharpton said at the funeral. “I come from New York to tell you that we’re not going to let that precedent stand.”
Patrick Lyoya’s father, Peter Lyoya, said since learning of his son’s death he had two wishes: to see his son’s body and to learn the identity of the man who took his son’s life.
“Truly, ever since when I buried Patrick and I lost Patrick, my heart doesn’t have any peace at all,” Peter Lyoya, who does not speak English, said through an interpreter. “I’m still mourning and I don’t know if I will ever find that rest and peace because I will never replace Patrick.”
Peter Lyoya said he was not made aware that police were planning to release the name of the officer Monday. He said he’s now hoping federal investigators will get involved and charge the officer.
“What is left now and what I’m asking now is for the Department of Justice to take this case and bring justice for my son Patrick,” Peter Lyoya said via his interpreter. “I would never want another parent to go through what I’m going through, to see another kid be killed by an officer. So what I’m asking really is for this officer to be arrested, to be brought to justice and to serve some time in prison.”
Kent County Commissioner Robert S. Womack stood alongside Peter Lyoya Monday afternoon. Womack has been making similar demands of Grand Rapids city commissioners. He also called on the commissioners to change GRPD policies.
“A young man’s life has been taken and we want to let them know that Patrick Lyoya’s life matters and we won’t stop until we get justice,” Womack said. “Justice to me is them all having their day in court.”
Womack added that he believes police withholding the name for the last three weeks was “unacceptable.”
“It’s just too much to lose a son and not be able to call the police station and get those basic answers. Some of those answers may not have even needed to go public if you had just talked to the family,” said Womack.
Members of Black Activists United also called on police to release information about the shooting. The group has been a part of and helped organize protests in downtown Grand Rapids for the last three weeks.
“Whenever there’s a crime committed by a civilian, we know who it was, what they looked like, their criminal background, everything. But when it’s a police officer, they want to coddle and that’s not OK,” said Nico, a member of BAU.
They say the public has a right to know the name of the officer who killed a fellow community member.
“People lost a brother, they lost a father, a son, a friend. They lost everything and Christopher Schurr needs to be held accountable for that,” said Bri, who is also a member of BAU.
The BAU members said they were also disappointed that the release of the officer’s name took so long.
“I honestly feel like they wouldn’t have released the name had it not been circulating (on social media). They probably would have waited even longer,” said BAU member Aly.
Ven Johnson, one of the attorneys representing the Lyoya family, on Monday criticized the delay in releasing the name.
“An intentional three-week delay in releasing the name of the involved officer, which they clearly knew at the moment of the shooting, is offensive and the exact opposite of being ‘transparent’. Once again, we see the Grand Rapids Police Department taking care of its own at the expense of the family’s mental health and well-being.”Ven Johnson
In the Monday release, Winstrom said that while it has long been GRPD’s policy not to release the name of people who haven’t been arrested or charged with a crime and not to release the name of any employee while an investigation is underway, it’s possible that could change in the future.
“…(P)olice reform requires evaluating many long-standing practices to ensure our actions are consistent with the best interests of the community and the individuals involved,” Winstrom wrote. “City Management, GRPD, the Office of Oversight and Public Accountability, and the Human Resources Department will be assessing our current practice and may explore potential adjustments going forward.”
News 8 typically does not name suspects before they are charged and arraigned. We are releasing Schurr’s name in this case because GRPD did so in light of this high-profile case.
Patrick Lyoya was shot by Schurr on the morning of April 4 on Nelson Avenue north of Griggs Street on the city’s Southeast side during a traffic stop. The video released by GRPD shows that there was a struggle that included Patrick Lyoya grabbing Schurr’s Taser. Schurr, who was atop Patrick Lyoya as the two struggled, shot him once in the head, killing him.
MSP released a statement Friday morning saying it is “sensitive to the need to complete (the investigation) in as timely and efficient of a manner as possible,” but also noting that “gathering all the facts and documenting every piece of evidence takes time.” The agency did not have a timeline on moving the case forward.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday told reporters after an event in Pontiac that her heart breaks for the community.
“My heart breaks for the greater Grand Rapids community, there’s a lot of pain. The investigation is being done by the state police, I expect that to be closed soon and it will be in the hands of the prosecutor, and that’s the place where the next steps are determined,” Whitmer told reporters. “The investigation is happening at the state level, but ultimately we don’t prosecute it, it is in the hands of the Kent County prosecutor and perhaps other agencies that might seek to do something, but it will be out of our hands at that point.”
The Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker will decide whether Schurr’s use of force was justified or whether charges should be issued. Becker declined to comment on the release of the officer’s name.