Grand Rapids, MI – A police group staunchly defended the officer who fatally shot Patrick Lyoya after the officer’s name was publicly released by the city’s police chief on Monday.
Lyoya, 26, was fatally shot on April 4 while trying to disarm the Grand Rapids police officer who was attempting to tase him during a fight.
Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) Chief Eric Winstrom confirmed in a media release on April 25 that the officer involved in the fatal shooting was GRPD Officer Christopher Schurr.
Officer Schurr’s name had been circulating on social media in relation to the shooting for weeks, according to WXMI.
Chief Winstrom said he decided to release the officer’s name “in the interest of transparency, to reduce on-going speculation, and to avoid any further confusion,” according to the press release.
He further noted that Officer Schurr has been stripped of his police powers and placed on administrative leave while the Michigan State Police continue their investigation into the fatal officer-involved shooting.
The Gerald R. Ford Metro Lodge #97 Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) released a statement supporting the seven-year GRPD veteran shortly thereafter.
The FOP is not the union representing Officer Schurr, but the organization describes itself as the “voice of Grand Rapids area law enforcement,” WXMI reported.
The FOP described Officer Schurr as a “public servant and servant of the Lord” who has traveled to Kenya in the past to minister to and serve those less fortunate than him.
He and his wife were married during a traditional Kenyan ceremony while on a mission trip.
The union said the young officer is “hardly the racist so many of the usual police haters try to portray him as.”
“We doubt the media will do their due diligence in conducting any investigative journalism to seek out the whole true story, but we can only hope,” the FOP added.
Officer Schurr is a public servant and servant of the Lord. He chose to minister to the people of Kenya and serve those less fortunate than him. Hardly a racist so many of the usual police haters try to portray him as.I doubt the media will do a fair job about his true character. pic.twitter.com/Y0ELDoCElU
— Dan McPherson (@DanMcPherson497) April 26, 2022
The statement also included a post written by one of Officer Schurr’s fellow officers.
“A lot of people are sharing pictures of him right now and are trying to portray him as an evil person. That is not Chris,” the borrowed message read.
“Chris recently had to make a decision that all as officers hope and pray never have to make,” his fellow officer continued. “Because Chris made it, the world is trying to make him out to be a monster.”
“Since the media and haters want to try and overwhelm Facebook with terrible still shots of Chris, and unbelievably disgusting lies, I wanted to take a second to add a little bit of truth to your feed, even for a second,” the borrowed post read.
“If you see the [attached pictures of Officer Schurr] and you see a monster please unfriend me and never look back,” the officer added. “But if you look at these pictures and see someone who was just trying to serve and protect his community at all costs, please take a second and say an extra prayer for this officer.”
The series of events leading up to Lyoya’s death began at approximately 8:11 a.m. on April 4, when the GRPD officer 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.
The officer told Lyoya that the plate on the vehicle he was driving belonged on another vehicle, bodycam footage showed.
“The plate doesn’t belong on this car,” the officer said twice.
Lyoya did not respond.
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.
Questions remain regarding whether the vehicle Lyoya was driving at the time of the traffic stop was stolen.
The Police Tribune reached out to the 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 April 20 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.
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.