Ex-officer faces trial for fatal shooting of black man in Michigan
A former police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man following a traffic stop in Grand Rapids, Michigan in April will be tried for second-degree murder, a state district court judge ruled Monday.
said Judge Nicholas S. Ayoub an opinion that he read from the bench at a hearing Monday that there was a probable reason former officer Christopher Schurr was being tried for a single second-degree murder the assassination of Patrick Lyoya on April 4th.
Judge Ayoub said there was “little doubt” Mr Lyoya’s death “was caused by the defendant’s gunshot wound to the head”. Video footage of the fatal encounter “strongly suggests,” the judge said, that Mr Schurr “knew he was pointing the gun at Mr Lyoya’s head and firing it at point-blank range.”
“The only really contentious issue here,” Judge Ayoub said, was whether Mr. Schurr’s “actions were justified under the law.”
Ven Johnson and Ben Crump, lawyers for Mr Lyoya’s family, said in a statement that a trial “is the next step in our quest for complete justice for Patrick Lyoya’s murder”.
“Our legal team will continue to fight to ensure that former Grand Rapids Police Officer Christopher Schurr and the City of Grand Rapids are held accountable for his actions,” they said.
Mr. Schurr what fired from the Grand Rapids Police Department in June.
Matthew Borgula, an attorney for Mr Schurr, said that while members of the defense team were disappointed, they were “not necessarily surprised” by the judge’s decision, “given the extremely light burden at this stage of the trial”.
“Chris Schurr maintains his innocence and we believe he will be exonerated at the trial as the evidence shows overwhelmingly that he has not committed any wrongdoing,” Mr Borgula said in a statement.
Defendants convicted of second-degree murder in Michigan must face it life in prison. A trial date has not yet been set, lawyers for Mr Lyoya’s family said.
The killing of Mr. Lyoya, who was 26, sparked protests in Grand Rapids, a city of about 200,000 where 18 percent of residents are black, according to police published videos showing the traffic obstruction that ended with his death.
The videos show Mr Lyoya driving through a residential area on the morning of April 4 when an officer, later identified as Mr Schurr, stopped him. Mr Lyoya gets out of his car, the videos show, and appears confused when the officer tells him to get back in the car. The officer asks Mr. Lyoya if he speaks English.
Mr. Lyoya says he speaks English and asks, “What did I do wrong?” After a brief exchange about whether Mr. Lyoya has a driver’s license, the officer grabs Mr. Lyoya, who pulls away and runs, video footage shows.
The officer attacks Mr. Lyoya on a nearby lawn and yells “Stop!” as Mr. Lyoya appears to be trying to regain his footing. At one point, body camera footage shows Mr. Lyoya reaching for the taser in the officer’s hand. When the footage was released in April, Grand Rapids Police Department Chief Eric Winstrom said he believed the taser was fired twice during the encounter, but that it did not hit anyone.
In the middle of the fight, the officer’s body camera stops filming. Chief Winstrom said at a news conference in April that pressure was being put on the camera to turn it off during the fight. It was not clear who applied this pressure or if it was intentional.
Other cameras — from the officer’s vehicle, a nearby doorbell security system, and a bystander’s cell phone — captured various parts of the encounter. Just before the fatal shot is fired, the officer yells, “Let go of the taser.” Mr. Lyoya looks down just before the shooting and pushes himself up with the officer on top of him
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