Michigan police officer charged with murder in killing of Patrick Lyoya

Scott Olson/Getty Images, FILE

(GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.) --  The prosecutor in Kent County, Michigan, has decided to charge Grand Rapids police officer Christopher Schurr with second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Patrick Lyoya during a traffic stop in April.

Lyoya, a 26-year-old immigrant from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was shot in the head on April 4 after Schurr pulled him over for an unregistered license plate. His death prompted protests throughout Grand Rapids.

Schurr turned himself in and is expected to be arraigned Friday, according to Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker, who made the charging decision. City officials confirmed that Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom will be filing paperwork before the end of the day for Schurr’s suspension without pay.

"Today is the first day of what I believe to be -- and hope, pray to be -- ultimate justice for Patrick Lyoya," said Lyoya family attorney Ven Johnson in an interview with ABC News. "We've waited 65 days since the date of his death. For this decision, the family has prayed about it, talked about it, and done everything that they know how to do to encourage this."

Lyoya's family told ABC News that they did not expect anything good to come from today, but said the charges gave them "a little bit of hope."

"Our hearts are really broken," said Peter Lyoya, Patrick's father, via a translator. "We lost Patrick but the person who has killed Patrick today is still free, is working, is spending time with his family, is enjoying his family. And seeing all of this is more pain to us and is still breaking our heart."

His father remembers him as a "strong" and "lovely young man."

Civil right attorney Ben Crump said he was "encouraged" by the prosecutor's decision to charge Schurr.

"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 in a statement to ABC News. "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."

Body camera video showed Schurr shouting at Lyoya to "get back in the car" at the beginning of the footage, which was released nine days after the shooting.

Schurr can be heard asking Lyoya if he spoke English and then demanding that Lyoya show his driver's license. Lyoya turned to a passenger in the car and started to walk away from Schurr.

The officer grabbed Lyoya and struggled with him before Schurr eventually forced him to the ground and shouted, "Stop resisting," "let go" and "drop the Taser." Police said Lyoya had grabbed at the officer's stun gun during the altercation.

The body camera was deactivated during the struggle, according to police.

Lyoya was then shot in the back of the head, according to both an independent autopsy report backed by Lyoya's family and the Kent County medical examiner.

"He's on his hands and knees facing away from the officer. There are so many other things the officer could have done instead of pulling his gun out and shooting him in the back of the head," Crump told ABC News in April.

The Grand Rapids Police Officer's Association had issued a statement in April which said, in part: "Officer Schurr, and all police officers, took an oath to serve the community by enforcing laws and protecting the public. A police officer has the obligation to protect themself, fellow officers and the community in often volatile situations. Police officers are often required to march into episodes that turn dangerous for the officer and members of the public.

"As tragic as this case is all the way around, we feel a thorough review of this entire situation will show that a police officer has the legal right to protect themselves and community in a volatile dangerous situation such as this, in order to return to his/her family at the end of their shift," the GRPOA said.

ABC News' Stephanie Wash and Amanda Su contributed to this report.

Thursday, June 9, 2022 at 3:19PM by Kiara Alfonseca and Adisa Hargett-Robinson, ABC News Permalink