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Protesters in downtown Grand Rapids on Wednesday, April 13. Protesters in downtown Grand Rapids on Wednesday, April 13. PHOTO BY KATE CARLSON

Hundreds protest in downtown GR after footage released of resident shot, killed by police

BY Wednesday, April 13, 2022 09:17pm

GRAND RAPIDS — Several hundred protesters gathered in downtown Grand Rapids Wednesday calling for justice for the family of Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old Black man who was recently shot and killed by a Grand Rapids Police officer during a traffic stop.

Lyoya was killed by the officer, whose identity city officials have not released, on April 4. City leaders and GRPD Chief Eric Winstrom held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to publicly release several videos that show different vantage points of the incident and shooting. 

Video footage shows a struggle between Lyoya and the officer before the officer restrained Lyoya on the ground. Lyoya attempted to grab the officer’s withdrawn taser, which was discharged twice during the struggle, before the officer fatally shot him in the back of the head, Winstrom described Wednesday.

The video footage included the officer’s bodycam, a nearby home surveillance camera, and video from the passenger who was riding with Lyoya. Each of the video sources were shown in succession, showing more details of the incident with each vantage point.

Asked about his initial reaction to watching the series of videos, Winstrom said during Wednesday’s press conference: “It was just a progression of sadness for me.” 

The Michigan State Police is overseeing an independent investigation of the case before referring findings to the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office. 

“The Michigan State Police are doing everything they can to complete the investigation in a timely manner, however it takes time to carefully gather the evidence,” Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said in a statement Wednesday. “We do not have all of the evidence for review. I don’t have an opportunity to review a case until I have all the evidence.”

MSP also will forward the investigation findings to the GRPD for an internal affairs investigation that will be monitored and audited by the city’s Office of Oversight and Public Accountability, City Manager Mark Washington explained Wednesday afternoon.

‘It’s a broken system’

Grand Rapids resident Alivia Clark attended the protest after seeing the video footage earlier in the day. Watching it makes her fear for the safety of the Black men in her own family, she said. 

“I’m sick and tired of seeing a justice system that continues to fail the Black community,” Clark said. “I’m tired of excuses and tired of seeing people like me die every single day for just being Black in America.”

A group of activists led protesters in chants like “abolish qualified immunity,” “prosecute the police,” and “justice for Patrick,” as they marched from Rosa Parks Circle to the nearby downtown GRPD station. Some shop windows downtown were boarded up ahead of the protest, reminiscent of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests that took place downtown. 

“I actually experienced this,” said Grand Rapids resident Deandre Jones, telling the crowd of protesters that his cousin was killed by police in Chicago. “This shit is serious, it is not a game.”

Jones and other activists urged the crowd to vote in local elections, to vote out current city commissioners, and to keep showing up and staying involved.

On Tuesday, city workers placed large concrete barriers and fencing in front of the police station entrance ahead of the first downtown protests that took place that afternoon. Tuesday protests against the GRPD for the killing of Lyoya culminated in hundreds of community members calling for justice during the city commission meeting that night, which ended at around midnight after several hours of public comment. 

“My heart is grieving and I’m not exempt from the stories that have been told tonight and nobody in my family is either,” Third Ward Commissioner Senita Lenear said at the Tuesday commission meeting. “Multiple people talked about a broken system, and that’s the reality. It’s a broken system that wasn’t built by people who look like me, and I can’t begin to tell you all how hard it’s been for so many years to try to dismantle it. … I want you all to know: I’ve been trying.”

Lyoya and his family are refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Patrick’s father, Peter Lyoya told WOOD-TV8. According to Peter Lyoya, his son lived in Grand Rapids with his girlfriend and their two young daughters, WOOD-TV8 reported.

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