GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. ( Associated Press) — A black man was fatally shot in the back of the head by a Michigan police officer face-to-face on the ground, the violent climax of a traffic stop, a foot chase and a stun gun. The fight, according to the video of the April 4 incident, released on Wednesday.
Patrick Lyoya, 26, was found murdered outside a home in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The white officer repeatedly ordered Lyoya to “let go” of his taser, demanding at one point: “Drop the taser!”
Read more: No charges against 2 Chicago police officers in fatal shooting
Citing the need for transparency, the city’s new police chief, Eric Winstrom, released four videos, including vital footage of a shooting recorded by a passenger in Loya’s car on that rainy morning.
“I view it as a tragedy. … It was a progression of sadness to me,” said Winstrom, a former high-ranking Chicago police commander who became Grand Rapids chief in March. The city of about 200,000 people is approximately 150 miles (240 kilometers) northwest of Detroit.
In the video, Lyoya is seen running away from the officer who stopped him for driving with a license plate that did not belong to the vehicle. They fought in front of several houses, while Lyoya’s traveler got out and watched.
Winstrom said the fight at Taser lasted about 90 seconds. In the last moments, the officer was on top of Lyoya, sometimes kneeling on his back to subdue him.
“In my view of the video, the Taser was deployed twice. Taser did not contact,” Winstrom told reporters. “And Mr. Loya was shot in the head. However, that is the only information I have.”
The state police is probing the shooting. Kent County’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Stephen Kohle, said he had completed the autopsy but the toxicology tests were not finished.
The traffic stop was tense from the start. The video shows Lyoya, a native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, getting out of the car before approaching the officer. He ordered Lyoya to return to the vehicle but the man refused.
The officer asked him if he spoke English and demanded his driver’s license. The leg chase began soon after the video shows.
Winstrom did not identify the seven-year veteran, who is on paid leave, during the investigation.
“I’ve been from Chicago for the past 20 years, I’ve handled many police shootings myself, so I have a lot of experience in that,” said the chief. “I was hoping to never have to use that experience here.”
Video was collected from Lyoya’s passenger, the officer’s body-worn camera, the officer’s patrol car and a doorbell camera. Prosecutor Chris Baker, who will decide whether a charge is justified, objected to the release, but said Winstrom could act on his own.
Baker said the public shouldn’t expect a quick decision.
“While the videos released today are anecdotal evidence, they are not all evidence,” he said.
City manager Mark Washington warned that the videos would cause “an expression of shock, anger and pain”. Some downtown businesses clambered over their storefronts, and concrete barricades surrounded the police headquarters.
Loya had two young daughters and five siblings, said Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who spoke to her family.
“He came to the United States as a refugee with his family fleeing violence. He had his whole life ahead of him,” Whitmer, a Democrat, said.
More than 100 people marched to Grand Rapids City Hall ahead of Tuesday night’s city commission meeting, chanting “Black lives matter” and “No justice, no peace.”
Winstrom said last week that he had met Lyoya’s father, Peter Lloya, and they both cried.
“I get it as a father. … It’s just heartbreaking,” the chief told WOOD-TV.
Like many US cities, Grand Rapids police are sometimes criticized for the use of force, particularly against black people, who make up 18% of the population.
In November, the Michigan Supreme Court heard arguments in a trial over the practice of photographing and fingerprinting people who had never been charged with a crime. Grand Rapids said the policy changed in 2015.
Downtown street is named Breonna Taylor Way, after the black woman and Grand Rapids native who was killed during a botched drug raid in 2020 by police in Louisville, Kentucky.
White reported from Detroit. Associated Press reporter Corey Williams in West Bloomfield, Michigan; David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan; and John Fleischer in Traverse City, Michigan contributed to this story.