Grand Rapids, MI — On April 4, an unnamed officer with the Grand Rapids police department initiated a traffic stop on 26-year-old Congolese refugee Patrick Lyoya. Moments later, Lyoya would be dead from a bullet wound to the back of his head — put there by the police officer — over a minor traffic violation.
Lyoya’s death is an example of how the system targets the poor and minorities with excessive traffic fees and fines for non-compliance. Lyoya had a suspended license and he knew that the officer who pulled him over that day was going to likely take him to jail for it. So, he tried to get away.
Because it is the police officer’s job to kidnap and cage people over victimless crimes like suspended licenses, Lyoya was not allowed to walk away. Instead, the officer escalated violence against the unarmed, non-violent man.
The nightmare for Lyoya’s two children and his parents started on that fateful day and they had to wait until Wednesday to watch how it unfolded. It is one of the most disturbing videos we’ve seen.
According to the Grand Rapids police department, the officer had initiated a traffic stop because the license plate on Lyoya’s car did not match the car in the system.
During the stop, Lyoya exits the vehicle before the officer asks for his driver’s license and tells him to get back in the car. At that moment, Lyoya decided to flee. At this point, the officer gave chase before tackling Lyoya and initiating a struggle on the ground.
At no point during the struggle did Lyoya attempt to punch or otherwise injure the officer. He merely tried to get away and defend himself from the officer’s attack.
When the officer pulls out his taser, Lyoya grabs it to stop the officer from deploying it.
“Stop!” the officer yells. “Let go of the Taser!”
The officer stays on Lyoya’s back for around 90 seconds before he then pulls out his pistol, puts it to the back of Lyoya’s head, and fires. Lyoya would not survive the execution style gunshot to the back of his head.
High profile police brutality attorney, Ben Crump is representing the family and released a statement on Wednesday demanding the officer be terminated, arrested and prosecuted for what he called use of excessive force and the “violent killing of Patrick Lyoya.”
“The video clearly shows that this was an unnecessary, excessive, and fatal use of force against an unarmed Black man who was confused by the encounter and terrified for his life,” Crump said. “It should be noted that Patrick never used violence against this officer even though the officer used violence against him in several instances for what was a misdemeanor traffic stop.”
Michigan state police spokeswoman Lt. Michelle Robinson told Detroit Free Press that their office is going to be handling the investigation.
“This is going to be one of our top priorities so that we have the investigation completed in a timely manner,” Robinson said.
For now, the officer involved is on paid administrative leave and has not been charged.
Residents have protested since the day Lyoya was killed with many of them noting that this is a pattern with the GRPD.
“We’re going on three years, we have went to every single commission meeting, protested, marched and did petitions telling these city officials numerous times that GRPD is on a power trip, and if they don’t start holding them accountable, another Black person was going to be killed at the hands of the police,” one public commenter said, according to the Press.
Lyoya arrived in the United States as a child with his five brothers and sisters. His family was fleeing violence in the Congo and had sought a better and safer life in the States. Unfortunately, and in a twist of tragic irony, thanks to the American police state, their quest for a safer and better life has come to a violent and bloody end.