Officials in Kent County, Michigan, announced Thursday that a second-degree murder charge has been filed against the officer whoon April 4. Video of the encounter, in which an officer shot Lyoya in the head after a struggle during a traffic stop, and calls for the officer to be charged.
Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said he believes there’s sufficient evidence to support the second-degree murder charge against the officer,. The charge is a felony offense which is punishable by up to life in prison with the possibility of parole, Becker said at a Thursday news conference.
Becker said Schurr has turned himself in and will be arraigned on Friday.
Video released by the Grand Rapids Police Department in April showed the officer, who is White, pull over Lyoya, who is Black, for driving with mismatched plates. The video showed Lyoya getting out of the car, despite the officer’s instructions to stay inside. When instructed to get his license from the car, Lyoya appears to ask a passenger to get it, and then tries to walk towards the passenger side of the car.
The officer is then seen telling Lyoya to stop and grabbing him. The pair struggle briefly, before Lyoya breaks free and the officer chases him on foot. The officer then tackles Lyoya on a nearby lawn, and the pair begin to struggle.
At one point, the officer fires his Taser twice — but Cedar Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom said he missed Lyoya both times. As the struggle continues, it appears at some moments that both men have their hands on the Taser.
The officer can repeatedly be heard telling Lyoya to take his hand off the Taser, though the passenger can be heard saying that Lyoya isn’t touching it.
Eventually, the officer is seen getting on top of Lyoya and shooting him in the head. Anconfirmed he was killed by the shot to his head.
The videos released by police included the officer’s body worn camera, the dashcam from the officer’s car, surveillance video from a house across the street and cell phone video captured by a passenger in the car. Still, some of the interaction — including the moments just before the shooting — are difficult to discern. At the time of the shooting, the body worn camera had been deactivated, the surveillance video was from a considerable distance and the cell phone was often pointed at the ground instead of the officer and Lyoya.
At a press conference in April, Winstrom said the body camera had deactivated because the button that controls the recording function had been pressed down for more than three seconds during the struggle. He said that based on the video, he believed the two men had fought over the Taser for about 90 seconds before the shooting.
According to the Associated Press, Winstrom said Thursday he would recommend firing Schurr, though he is entitled to a hearing, and the city manager will ultimately make the decision.
Lyoya’s family has condemned the shooting, with his father telling CBS News in April that his son was “killed like an animal.” Peter Lyoya said the family had fled the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2014 in the hopes of a safer life.
“I came here to save my family,” Peter Lyoya told CBS News. “My son has been killed like an animal.”
“The one [who] was supposed to be protecting Patrick’s life, is the one [who] killed Patrick and take Patrick’s life away,” he added.
In a statement Thursday, Lyoya family attorney Benjamin Crump heralded the decision to charge Schurr as a “crucial step in the right direction.”
“While the road to justice for Patrick and his family has just begun, this decision is a crucial step in the right direction,” Crump said. “Officer Schurr must be held accountable for his decision to pursue an unarmed Patrick, ultimately shooting him in the back of the head and killing him – for nothing more than a traffic stop.”
Jordan Freiman contributed reporting.