The Michigan police officer accused of shooting and killing Patrick Lyoya in the back of his head following a traffic stop earlier this year will make his initial court appearance on Friday.
Grand Rapids Officer Christopher Schurr is expected to appear in court on a charge of second-degree murder related to the 26-year-old’s death minutes after a traffic stop in April. Kent County prosecutor Chris Becker announced his decision Thursday to file the charges, though Schurr’s attorneys have argued that Lyoya had “gained control of” the officer’s weapon.
“The death was not justified or excused, for example, by self defense,” the prosecutor said, reciting the elements of second-degree murder.
Lyoya, a 26-year-old from Conga, was on the ground when he was shot in the back of the head following an April 4 traffic stop that was caught on camera, officials have said.
Schurr, who is White, told Lyoya, who is Black, that he stopped his car because the license plate didn’t match the vehicle, officials have said. Roughly a minute later, Lyoya began to run after he was asked to produce a driver’s license, video from the stop shows.
Schurr caught him quickly, and the two struggled across a front lawn in the rain before the fatal shot.
Defense lawyers said the shooting was not “murder but an unfortunate tragedy” during a volatile situation.
“Mr. Lyoya gained full control of a police officer’s weapon while resisting arrest, placing Officer Schurr in fear of great bodily harm or death,” Matt Borgula and Mark Dodge said in a written statement.
Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom said he would recommend Schurr be fired, though he is entitled to a hearing and the ultimate decision would be up to the city manager. Schurr has been on leave since the shooting.
Becker said he consulted experts from outside Michigan about the use of force in the case. He informed Lyoya’s parents about the charge before holding a news conference and also sent a letter in Swahili, their native language.
Schurr turned himself in and was being held at a jail outside Kent County.
His personnel file shows no complaints of excessive force but much praise for traffic stops and foot chases that led to arrests and the seizure of guns and drugs.
Grand Rapids, population about 200,000, is 160 miles west of Detroit.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.