DETROIT – Patrick Lyoya was a “quiet kid” who didn’t like to fight, according to his father.
Peter Lyoya said his son, a 26-year-old Congolese refugee, “made a small mistake” this month. Then he was fatally shot in the back of the head by a Grand Rapids police officer.
Details emerged Thursday about Patrick Lyoya’s death after police released video of the fatal traffic stop. It shows Lyoya, who is Black, was shot by a white police officer after a struggle. The traffic stop happened April 4.
The name of the officer was not released, and no charges have been issued. The officer was put on administrative leave, said Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom.
At a news conference Thursday, Lyoya’s mother, father and younger brother joined Ben Crump, the family’s attorney, to speak about the video and Lyoya’s life.
“Patrick Lyoya immigrated to the United States from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to pursue the American dream and provide a better and safer life for himself and his family,” Crump said. “Instead, what found him was a fatal bullet to the back of the head, delivered by an officer of the Grand Rapids Police Department.”
In the video released by police Wednesday, Lyoya struggled with the officer, attempting to grab his taser before the officer pinned him down to the ground and shot him.
“It was the most horrifying thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Thomas Lyoya, Patrick’s brother, said Thursday.
Here’s what we know:
How did the traffic shop and shooting unfold in Grand Rapids?
The video includes a compilation of footage from police dash and body cameras, a home security camera and a cellphone. It depicts a Grand Rapids police officer pulling over Lyoya and a passenger for a “license plate that doesn’t match the car.”
Once Lyoya pulled over, he got out of the car, and the officer told him to stay in the vehicle. The officer approached Lyoya outside his car and asked for his driver’s license. He asked whether Lyoya spoke English.
Lyoya ran around the car, and the officer chased and tackled him to the ground on the front lawn of a house. During their struggle, the officer told Lyoya to “stop resisting” and “let go of the taser.”
After a couple of minutes, the officer was lying on top of Lyoya, who was face down on the ground, still yelling for him to “let go of the taser.” He then shot him in the back of the head.
The passenger in the car, who recorded the interaction on his phone, told the officer, “Stop, he good, you can talk to him.”
RALLY FOR JUSTICE: Protesters call for accountability after release of video
Who was Patrick Lyoya?
Lyoya immigrated to the USA with his family in 2014, fleeing violence in his home country, according to a statement from the Michigan governor’s office.
“Patrick never had a problem with anybody,” Lyoya’s father told The Associated Press through an interpreter.
Peter Lyoya said he came to the USA to get away from prolonged civil unrest in which several rebel groups vied for control of territories in mineral-rich eastern Congo. Patrick, who had two young children, worked at an auto parts factory in Grand Rapids and visited his siblings in Lansing on weekends, his dad said.
The Lyoya family believed Patrick and his siblings would be safe in the USA from the violence they escaped in Congo, Patrick’s mother, Dorcas, said Thursday at the news conference.
“When we ran away from war from Congo, because we were in an area that was not safe, there was a war. I thought that I came to a safe land, a haven, a safe place,” she said. “I start thinking now, I’m surprised and astonished to see that my son, it is here that my son was killed with a bullet. … I was thinking it was my son who would bury me, but I am the one burying my son.”
The Lyoya family called for justice, sharing their heartbreak over his passing.
“What is making me cry more, is my son has been killed by a police officer for a small, small mistake,” Peter Lyoya said. “At the time that I saw this video, my heart was really deeply broken. Right now, I am seeing that I have no life, my life has come to an end, my life was Patrick, my son. I was thinking that Patrick would take my place.”
Protesters call for accountability
Crump, who has represented the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Trayvon Martin, called for the prosecution of the unnamed officer responsible for the shooting.
“We believe that this officer should be terminated for engaging in unnecessary excessive use of deadly force,” Crump said Thursday. “His mother and father and his family are asking that the state attorney charge him to the full extent of the law for killing their son, for breaking their hearts, for making his young children orphans.”
Tamika Palmer, Taylor’s mother, attended the news conference. Taylor, who was shot and killed by Louisville, Kentucky, police officers in her apartment hallway in 2020, was born in Grand Rapids.
“I know what it feels like to lose your 26-year-old child by the people who are supposed to protect and serve us,” Palmer said. “The only thing that needs to happened is this officer needs to be arrested, convicted and prosecuted.”
Hundreds of protesters marched in downtown Grand Rapids on Wednesday, where speakers called for accountability.
“Regardless of the color of his skin, that man should not have been killed,” DeAndre Jones said at the protest. Chants of “Black lives matter,” “No justice, no peace” and “Name that murderer” were shouted in front of police headquarters.
Grand Rapids, Michigan, has a population of about 200,000, about 18% of which is Black, according to 2021 census data.
Contributing: The Associated Press; Arpan Lobo and Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press