Grand Rapids, MI – More than two weeks after Patrick Lyoya was fatally shot while trying to gain control of a Grand Rapids police officer’s Taser, questions remain regarding whether the vehicle he was driving at the time of the traffic stop was stolen.
Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom previously confirmed that the vehicle 26-year-old Lyoya was driving on April 4 had an “improper Michigan registration,” which resulted in the officer pulling him over on Nelson Avenue Southeast near Griggs Street Southeast.
“The plate doesn’t belong on this car,” the officer told him twice.
Lyoya did not respond.
The Police Tribune reached out to the Michigan State Police (MSP) and the Grand Rapids Police Officer’s Association (GRPOA) for confirmation on the status of the vehicle.
MSP Sixth District Public Information Officer Lieutenant Michelle Robinson told The Police Tribune on Wednesday morning that the department will not release any additional information about the case at this time.
“We are not releasing any additional information as it remains an active, ongoing investigation,” Lt. Robinson said. “We will do a thorough investigation that will be given to the prosecutor once completed. I do not have a time line of when that will be.”
The GRPOA did not immediately respond to The Police Tribune’s request.
According to Lyoya’s Michigan criminal history shows he was arrested three times on felony possession of stolen vehicles offenses in the past.
Each of those charges were ultimately pleaded down to misdemeanors, with his longest jail sentence running just 181 days.
The Kentwood Police Department (KPD) arrested Lyoya for assaulting a pregnant woman on April 4, 2017.
He pleaded guilty to a charge of misdemeanor domestic violence and was sentenced to one year on probation and $545 in fines and fees for that offense.
Lyoya was also charged with driving while intoxicated on at least three occasions, including one instance where he had a passenger in the vehicle who was under the age of 16.
He was charged with driving on a suspended or revoked driver’s license at least twice.
Lyoya’s criminal history also includes at least two incidents in which the GRPD requested warrants for his arrest for several offenses, to include a charge of obstruction.
The status of the warrants is unclear.
The series of events leading up to Lyoya’s death began at approximately 8:11 a.m. on April 4, when a seven-year veteran of the GRPD spotted a vehicle traveling westbound on Griggs Street with for a Michigan license plate which didn’t match the car, Chief Winstrom said during a press conference on April 13.
The officer followed the vehicle and initiated a traffic stop on Nelson Avenue Southeast near Griggs Street Southeast.
Bodycam and dashcam footage showed the driver, later identified as Lyoya, as he immediately exited the vehicle after being pulled over.
The officer ordered him to stay in the car, but Lyoya ignored him.
The officer explained the reason for the stop and asked Lyoya for his driver’s license several times before the suspect opened the driver’s door and spoke briefly with a passenger inside the vehicle, the videos showed.
A moment later, Lyoya closed the door and started walking around the front of the car, at which point the officer stopped him as he tried to pull away.
Lyoya took off running during the ensuing confrontation, heading around the back end of the suspect vehicle before the officer tackled him on the lawn of a nearby home, the videos showed.
The lone officer repeatedly ordered the suspect to put his hands behind his back and to stop resisting, but Lyoya did not comply.
Chief Winstrom said the officer deployed his Taser twice during the struggle, but that the barbs went into the ground both times.
The officer repeatedly ordered Lyoya to stop resisting and to “let go of the Taser,” the video showed.
Chief Winstrom said it appeared that the officer and the suspect both had a grip on the weapon for approximately 90 seconds as the fight continued.
Cellphone footage recorded by the passenger in Lyoya’s car showed the officer trying to keep the combative suspect on the ground during the brawl.
“Let go of the Taser! Drop the Taser!” the officer yelled multiple times.
The suspect and the officer were both on the ground fighting over the weapon when the officer drew his duty weapon, the video showed.
He fired a single round, striking Lyoya in the head, Chief Winstrom said.
Ben Crump and Ven Johnson, the attorneys representing Lyoya’s family, held a press conference at the Westin Book Cadillac Detroit on April 19 to reveal the findings of the independent autopsy conducted by forensic pathology expert Dr. Werner Spitz, WZZM reported.
Spitz said that during the autopsy, which was conducted in Grand Rapids on April 16, he discovered Lyoya was killed by a single bullet that entered the back of his skull near the midline, according to WXYZ.
The bullet then traveled upwards and to the right, lodging in the area of Lyoya’s right temporal bone, according to Spitz.
“This independent autopsy report confirms what we all witnessed in the horrifying video footage – unarmed Patrick Lyoya was conscious until the bullet entered his head, instantly ending what could have been a long and fruitful life,” Crump declared during the press conference, according to WZZM.
Preliminary information suggest Lyoya was actually armed with a Taser at the time he was shot.
“This young man and his family moved to the United States to pursue a better and safer life, yet he was brutally killed at the hands of a police officer, who failed to deescalate the situation before he took Patrick’s life,” Crump added.
Lyoya was killed while disarming a police officer.
“The Grand Rapids Police Department and the officer who pulled the trigger that killed our client must be held accountable,” Johnson said during the press conference on Tuesday, according to WZZM.
Chief Winstrom released bodycam, cell phone, and security footage of the fatal officer-involved shooting during a press conference on April 13, but said he will not release the officer’s name unless he is criminally charged.
Chief Winstrom further noted it was too early in the investigation to render judgement on whether or not the shooting was justified.
Kent County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Cohle completed an initial autopsy on April 4, but those results will not be released until after the Michigan State Police (MSP) completes its investigation, WZZM reported.
Cohle further noted he was still waiting for toxicology results to come back.
Spitz said he did not conduct toxicology testing as part of the independent autopsy, WXYZ reported.