Grand Rapids police chief confirms Officer Christopher Schurr shot, killed Lyoya

GRPD kept the name of the officer under wraps, despite activists calling repeatedly for the department to release it

click to enlarge Protest on April 15, 2022 after a GRPD officer fatally shot a 26-year-old Black man, Patrick Lyoya, in the head. - ALLISON R. DONAHUE, MICHIGAN ADVANCE
Allison R. Donahue, Michigan Advance
Protest on April 15, 2022 after a GRPD officer fatally shot a 26-year-old Black man, Patrick Lyoya, in the head.

The Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) has released the name of the officer who shot a 26-year-old unarmed Black man on April 4, an incident that has sparked numerous protests across the state in the weeks since.

Patrick Lyoya was shot in the back of the head after he was pulled over on a traffic stop and a struggle ensued over the officer’s taser. The GRPD had kept the name of the officer under wraps until Monday, despite the Lyoya family and activists calling repeatedly for the department to release the officer’s name.

“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,” Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom said in a statement Monday.

Winstrom said that beginning this week, the GRPD will begin releasing documents in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests regarding the incident. Future requests for documents must also be made via FOIA requests.

Schurr has been stripped of his police powers and remains on administrative leave until investigations by the Michigan State Police (MSP) and the GRPD are complete.

The MSP is investigating potential criminal charges, while the GRPD’s internal affairs investigation seeks to determine whether all applicable departmental policies were followed. The Kent County Prosecutor’s office is also investigating the incident.

On April 4, Schurr pulled Lyoya over for a traffic stop. Lyoya reportedly got out of the car and started to run away, after which Schurr deployed a taser twice. The officer said it did not appear to make contact with Lyoya.

After a brief struggle over possession of the taser, Schurr held Lyoya face-down on the ground and fatally shot him in the back of the head.

An independent autopsy report concluded that the gun was pressed against Lyoya’s head when he was shot, and the bullet entered about 4 inches below the top of his scalp. No other injuries were found, which the report suggested was evidence that there was no violent struggle prior to his death.

Lyoya’s funeral was held Friday.

Prior to Schurr’s name being officially released, Twitter users had been speculating as early as April 13 that he had been the one involved.

Monday’s press release emphasized that the city of Grand Rapids has a “long-standing practice” of withholding the names of employees under investigation until that investigation has been completed. The GRPD similarly withholds the names of individuals who have not been arrested or charged with a crime.

But, the release continues, 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.

“City Management, GRPD, the Office of Oversight and Public Accountability, and the Human Resources Department will be assessing our current practice and may explore potential adjustments going forward,” the email concludes.

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