Grand Rapids, MI – The now-former Grand Rapids police officer who fatally shot a man who tried to disarm him during a fight that broke out during a traffic stop in April will stand trial for second-degree murder, a judge ruled on Monday.
Michigan state District Court Judge Nicholas Ayoub ruled on Oct. 31 that sufficient evidence exists for in the case against 31-year-old former Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) Officer Christopher Schurr for the matter to proceed to trial, MLive reported.
Ayoub said that Michigan’s legal process calls for a jury to determine whether Schurr was justified in using deadly force against 26-year-old Patrick Lyoya during a traffic stop on April 4.
Ayoub’s ruling came after a two-day preliminary examination hearing that concluded on Oct. 28, MLive reported.
GRPD Captain Chad McKersie testified during the hearing that Schurr’s use of deadly force was justified under the department’s policy.
“He went through his use of force options to the best of his ability,” Capt. McKersie told the judge.
Schurr, who received 14 letters of recognition during his seven years of service as a law enforcement officer and had no history of use-of-force complaints against him prior to the fatal confrontation with Lyoya, was fired by the GRPD after he was criminally charged in June.
He faces a maximum of life in prison with the possibility of parole if he is convicted, WXMI reported.
A trial date was not immediately set.
Schurr’s attorney, Matthew Borgula, said he and his client are prepared for his upcoming trial, WOOD reported.
“I think the judge indicated, at least in part, that there are some significant questions here that will make it very difficult for the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Schurr committed a crime,” Borgula noted. “We feel strongly that he will be acquitted during a jury trial.”
He also had three warrants out for his arrest and was driving despite having a revoked driver’s license, according to CNN.
GRPD Chief Eric Winstrom told reporters on April 13 that the series of events leading up to Lyoya’s death began at approximately 8:11 a.m. on April 4, when Officer Schurr spotted a vehicle traveling westbound on Griggs Street with for a Michigan license plate which didn’t match the car.
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.
Officer Schurr 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.
Officer Schurr 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 Officer Schurr 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!” Officer Schurr 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.
Officer Schurr fired a single round, striking Lyoya in the head, Chief Winstrom said.
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.
Investigators said that when the searched the suspect vehicle after the deadly shooting, they located IDs, Bridge cards, and credit cards that did not belong to Lyoya, WOOD reported.
Lyoya’s father, Peter Lyoya, said he was outraged that Schurr’s attorney brought up his son’s criminal history during the hearing.
“I felt like my heart, me and my family, our hearts were broken,” Peter Lyoya told WOOD. “…I was surprised, astonished, to see how they are accusing, they try to portray my son like a real criminal. That really hurt my heart. My heart was still bleeding, my wife’s heart was bleeding, to see that son, I’ve already lost him, I buried him, and yet they are still crushing his image, his reputation, his name just to acquit the officer.”