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Killing is just the latest firestorm for police in Grand Rapids

Peter Lyoya holds up a picture of his son Patrick Lyoya, 26, in his home in Lansing, Mich., April 14, 2022. Patrick was face-down on the ground when he was fatally shot in the head by a Grand Rapids Police officer after resisting arrest on April 4, 2022. Grand Rapids police released four videos from different sources Wednesday, nine days after Patrick Lyoya was killed during a traffic stop. Prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump and Lyoya’s family are planning to hold a news conference Thursday afternoon. (AP Photo/Anna Nichols)

A Michigan police officer fatally shot Patrick Lyoya from behind when a traffic stop turned deadly earlier this month, videos released Wednesday showed.

The 26-year-old Black man was seemingly wrestling with the officer over his Taser when he was fatally shot in the back of the head. The officer, who remains unnamed at this time, was lying on top of Lyoya at the time of the shooting. 

“I intend to continue to be as forthright and transparent as possible during the ongoing Michigan State Police investigation, while maintaining my duty to protect the integrity of that investigation in the interests of justice and accountability,” Grand Rapids police chief Eric Winstrom said in a statement announcing the release of the footage.

But the April 4 shooting is only the latest in slew of problems facing the Grand Rapids Police Department, many of which are in regard to excessive force. 

“This was a preventable death,” Miriam Aukerman, senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan, told The Hill. “This was a predictable death. This death did not need to happen, but people have been saying for years that this death is coming.” 

In April of 2021, a Grand Rapids police officer repeatedly punched Diabate Hood, a 26-year-old Black man, in the head after stopping him for littering. 

“You’re lucky you’re not dead,” an officer told Hood at the time, which is just one of a series of other incidents involving the department.

In 2020, Grand Rapids police officer Phillip Reinink was suspended for two days without pay for mistakenly shooting a man from close range with a long-range tear gas canister, reported 13 On Your Side, a local ABC News station. That incident itself followed a protest against police brutality.

The ACLU of Michigan alongside the Michigan Department of Civil Rights accused the department in 2019 of discriminatory treatment against a 15-year-old Latino child. After jaywalking, that child and his friend were approached by an officer who drew his gun on them when they attempted to leave while the officer was checking if they had any warrants. 

In December 2017, Grand Rapids police officers handcuffed an 11-year-old girl at gunpoint during the search for a woman responsible for a stabbing. Earlier that same year, police in the city also held five innocent teenagers at gunpoint, The New York Times reported

“You don’t have to deal with mental health crises or traffic stops with a gun. There’s lots of other ways to deal with those kinds of situations,” Aukerman told The Hill.

“The community has been advocating and organizing and demanding change for years,” she added, saying that “the calls for change have fallen on deaf ears.” 

Following the brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in 2020, the country saw a widespread protests demanding accountability for police departments, including in Grand Rapids. 

“Sadly, we’ve not seen a lot of change or progress,” Aukerman said when asked about the result of past demands for police accountability within the community.

“Everyone deserves to feel safe and to be safe. Whether that means, you know, when you’re driving through your neighborhood. Whether it means you’re walking down the street. Whatever it is. You need to be able to feel safe, and people in this community are afraid of the police,” she added. 

Tags deaths in police custody Grand Rapids Michigan police brutality police killings Police shootings
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