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” earlier this month. Then he was fatally shot in the back of the head by a Grand Rapids police officer.
More details were emerging 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 has not been released, and no charges have been issued. The officer, has been put on administrative leave, said Grand Rapids Police chief Eric Windstrom.
At a Thursday press conference, 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 is seen struggling with the officer and attempting to grab his taser before the officer pins him down to the ground and shoots 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 cameras and body camera footage, a home security camera and a cell phone video. 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 pulls over, he gets out of the car and the officer tells him to stay in the vehicle. The officer then approaches Lyoya outside his car and asks for his driver’s license. He then asks if Lyoya speaks English.
Lyoya appears to run around the car, and the officer chases and tackles him to the ground on the front lawn of a house. They struggle, and the officer can be heard telling Lyoya to “stop resisting” and to “let go of the taser.”
After a couple of minutes, the officer is lying on top of Lyoya, who is face down on the ground, still yelling for him to “let go of the Taser.” He then shoots him in the back of the head.
The passenger in the car, who recorded the interaction on his phone, can be heard telling the officer, “Stop, he good, you can talk to him.”
RALLY FOR JUSTICE: Protesters call for accountability following release of video
Who was Patrick Lyoya?
Lyoya immigrated to the United States 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 said he came to the U.S. to get away from prolonged civil unrest in which several rebel groups have vied for control of territories in mineral-rich eastern Congo. Patrick, who has two young children of his own, worked at an auto parts factory in Grand Rapids and would visit his siblings in Lansing on weekends, his dad said.
When arriving in the United States after escaping from Congo, the Lyoya family believed Patrick and his siblings would be safe from the violence they experienced at home, Patrick’s mother Dorcas said at the Thursday press 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 termination and 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 at a Thursday press conference. “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, mother of Breonna Taylor, was also in attendance at the press conference. Taylor, who was shot and killed by Louisville 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,” said DeAndre Jones, who was at the protest. Chants of “Black lives matter,” “No justice, no peace” and “Name that murderer” were shouted in front of GRPD’s headquarters.
Grand Rapids, Michigan, has a population of about 200,000, and is about 18% Black, according to 2021 census data.
Contributing: The Associated Press; Arpan Lobo and Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press