DETROIT — A Michigan police chief reversed course on Monday and publicly identified the officer who fatally shot Patrick Lyoya in the back of the head during an April 4 traffic stop.
Christopher Schurr is the Grand Rapids police officer seen in video shooting motorist Lyoya Grand Rapid Police Chief Eric Winstrom confirmed Monday.
“In the interest of transparency, to reduce on-going speculation, and to avoid any further confusion, I am confirming the name already publicly circulating — Christopher Schurr — as the officer involved in the April 4 Officer Involved Shooting,” Winstrom said in a statement.
Schurr remains on administrative leave without police powers while an investigation into the shooting continues, Winstrom said. Lyoya’s family, lawyers and others in the community have been demanding the release of the officer’s name.
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“An intentional three-week delay in releasing the name of the involved officer, which they clearly knew at the moment of the shooting, is offensive and the exact opposite of being ‘transparent,’ ” Ven Johnson, one of the family’s attorneys, said in a statement. “Once again, we see the Grand Rapids Police Department taking care of its own at the expense of the family’s mental health and well-being.”
National Action Network founder and president the Rev. Al Sharpton, who eulogized Lyoya, 26, a Black man and native of Congo, at his funeral Friday, also had called for police to release the officer’s name.
“Every time a Black man or woman is arrested in America, their name is immediately put out” Sharpton said Monday in a statement. “But when this officer put the gun to the back of Patrick Lyoya’s head and decided to pull the trigger, his family had to wait three weeks to find out the name of the man who killed him. Transparency is the first step toward justice in Patrick Lyoya’s name, but it certainly isn’t the last.”
After Lyoya’s funeral, Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington acknowledged the demand for the officer’s name and said he would discuss the matter with Winstrom and city employment officials.
“Police reform requires evaluating many long-standing practices to ensure our actions are consistent with the best interests of the community and the individuals involved,” Washington said last
The New Black Panther Party, which had organized protests after the shooting, said in a statement that many people in the community had already heard the name through unofficial sources.
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The party credited activists and their pressure for the official release.
“If it wasn’t for the constant pressure and Christopher Shurr’s name being constantly posted we probably would still not know for sure,” the party said in an Instagram post.
The post went on to call for murder charges against Schurr.
Police said Lyoya was stopped for having an improper license plate on his vehicle. After the stop, he attempted to run from the officer, who chased and tackled him.
The two men wrestled for the officer’s stun gun before the officer pulled his pistol and shot Lyoya. An autopsy found he died of a single gunshot wound to the back of the head.
The death sparked protests in Grand Rapids and across the nation and renewed calls for police reform. Michigan State Police are investigating the shooting. No charges have been filed.
Michigan State Police spokesperson Lt. Michelle Robinson said the state police were made aware of the Grand Rapids Police Department’s intention to release Schurr’s name.
“The Michigan State Police will continue to ensure that all evidence and facts are accurately collected and documented,” Robinson said in an email.
Voicemails left with a Grand Rapids Police Department spokesperson and Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker were not immediately returned Monday. The Detroit Free Press, part of the USA TODAY Network, also left messages seeking comment with Schurr’s union, the Grand Rapid Police Officers Association.
The Michigan State Police will forward the results of the investigation of the shooting to Becker’s office once it is complete. MSP officials said in a Friday news release that the investigation remains ongoing.
“We recognize the importance of this investigation, and we are sensitive to the need to complete it in as timely and efficient of a manner as possible,” an MSP statement said. “As with any investigation, gathering all the facts and documenting every piece of evidence takes time and we appreciate the patience of the community as we work to conduct a thorough and complete investigation.”
Contributing: The Associated Press