Patrick Lyoya was a 26-year-old refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who had moved to Grand Rapids in about 2015. He was shot and killed by a GRPD officer on the morning of April 4, near the intersection of Griggs and Nelson SE.
There has been very limited information supplied by the GRPD to date. GRPD has said that the initial traffic stop occurred because of a license plate discrepancy. They are saying that after the stop, Patrick Lyoya fled, and a chase and altercation followed. During the altercation, the body camera was dislodged and the officer’s gun discharged, killing Patrick.
There is dashboard camera footage of the event, and this footage has been viewed by the family and by their pastor who also serves as their interpreter. There is also reportedly a cellphone video taken by a witness, whose phone was taken by police. City Manager Mark Washington has said that he anticipates that body-worn camera, in-car video, doorbell camera, and cellphone videos will be released this week.
The family’s account of what appears on the video disputes the GRPD’s version of the events. Patrick’s father, Peter Lyoya said (through his interpreter), “Patrick’s hands were on the back. (The officer) took the gun and put it on the head and they shoot Patrick on the back of the head.” Patrick’s pastor and the family’s interpreter, Israel Siku, who also viewed the video, said at a community forum at Renaissance Church of God in Christ that Patrick was on the ground, the officer had his knees on him, and the officer pulled his gun and shot him the back of his head, killing him.
Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom has said the video of the incident will be released by Friday at noon. We don’t know exactly when it will be released. The release of the video will almost certainly bring an outcry, potentially even nationally. The expectation is that there will be continuing demonstrations, of which we as the Grand Rapids Association of Pastors will be a part. Many of you have already been involved in protests and in the community forum on Sunday.
The hope of G-RAP is that area pastors will come alongside and stand with the Lyoya family. The Coalition of Black Pastors has been advocating for justice and should serve as leaders for us during this time. We invite all participants of G-RAP to stand together with them, demanding the release of all information, full transparency and justice for Patrick and his family.
As you hear of opportunities to be engaged, please forward all information to Natalie Hart, the Administrator of G-RAP, who serves in Grace Church. The phone number at Grace is (616) 452-8920. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will continue to keep you informed of opportunities to bear public witness to this tragedy and the need for transparency and accountability.
Please be in prayer for our city during what will be very difficult days.