Lansing, MI – Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson declared on Friday that the state will no longer provide media outlets with driving records or personal information about “victims of violence” after outlets published information about a suspect who was killed in an officer-involved shooting earlier this month.
Patrick Lyoya, 26, fought with a Grand Rapids police officer and tried to gain control of his Taser after fleeing from a traffic stop on April 4.
The officer fatally shot Lyoya during the brawl.
Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) Chief Eric Winstrom released bodycam, cell phone, and security footage on Wednesday showing the encounter.
In the declaration issued on Friday, Benson’s office blasted media outlets for publishing information obtained from her office regarding Lyoya’s history of traffic infractions.
The Secretary of State had previously released records indicating Lyoya was driving with a revoked license when the Grand Rapids police officer pulled him over, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Although the investigation into the fatal officer-involved shooting remains ongoing, the Michigan Department of State declared on Friday that it “condemns the killing of Patrick Lyoya.”
“Moreover, the Department will no longer provide the driving record and personal information of Mr. Lyoya to the media, nor will it provide to media such records and information of other victims of violence,” Benson’s office said in the announcement.
The agency noted that it provided Lyoya’s record to three media outlets “before recognizing that it was being included as irrelevant detail that wrongly suggests he is culpable for being shot in the back of the head by a Grand Rapids police officer.”
Benson’s office said it will continue its ongoing review and revision of the policies that dictate how the department “provides the personal information of any Michigan resident to third parties,” according to the press release.
The policy change is in apparent violation of the Michigan Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA). The department made a statement which appears to indicate that they know that they are in violation of the FOIA, but are ignoring the law because they don’t agree with it.
“As we have stated previously, current Michigan law is very broad, and we believe state legislators should strengthen the law to demonstrate that they value the privacy of Michiganders over corporate profits,” the Michigan State Department said. “In the absence of legislative action, we will continue our own review.”
The Michigan Department of State Twitter account posted their announcement about the change, but then deleted it from social media shortly thereafter. The announcement remains active on the state government website.
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 an improper Michigan registration, Chief Winstrom said during the April 13 press conference.
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.
The winded officer immediately rose to his feet, backed away, and radioed for help.
Chief Winstrom said he will not release the officer’s name unless he is criminally charged.
He said it is also too early to render judgement on whether or not the shooting was justified.
The chief also shut down claims being made that Lyoya had pulled over next to the curb because his vehicle was making noise and that the officer had pulled up behind him afterwards.
“It was a traffic stop,” he said.
The officer involved in the shooting has been placed on paid leave and “stripped of his police powers pending the outcome of this investigation,” Chief Winstrom said.
“I thank the public for their patience and understanding while waiting for the release of the video,” Chief Winstrom said prior to the release of the footage. “I intend to continue to be as forthright and transparent during the ongoing investigation which is under the control of the Michigan State Police.”