‘Frustrated and hurting’: Michigan Democrats demand accountability after fatal police shooting in Grand Rapids

Samuel J. Robinson

Apr 13, 2022

Sen. Adam Hollier-Detroit described Lyoya’s death as an “execution.” The senator from Detroit released a video on social media saying that had Lyoya not been a Black man in his 20′s, he would still be alive.

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Michigan lawmakers are calling for accountability and transparency following the release of several videos of the police shooting of a 26-year-old Grand Rapids man, which one legislator has described as a “tragic murder.”

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist issued a joint statement Wednesday in which they announced they had spoken to the family of Patrick Lyoya, the man killed by a Grand Rapids police officer who was on top of Lyoya at the time of the shooting.

“The Lieutenant Governor and I spoke with Patrick’s family and our hearts are with them and the Grand Rapids community who are dealing with unimaginable pain and loss. Patrick was 26. He arrived in the United States as a refugee with his family fleeing violence. He had his whole life ahead of him. Patrick was a son, a dad of two young daughters, and an older brother to his five siblings.”

Lyoya was shot and killed April 4 following what police said was a traffic stop and struggle with an officer at a Southeast Grand Rapids intersection.

Video footage released by Grand Rapids Police Department Wednesday showed Lyoya get out of his car once approached by the officer. He fled briefly before the officer caught up with him and repeatedly told him to stop resisting. The officer grabbed at Lyoya, then lost control shortly afterward and tried to use a Taser on Lyoya.

Video shows the officer fired the fatal shot while Lyoya was on the ground. Lyoya was unarmed, according to Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom.

The officer who killed Lyoya has not been named by GRPD.

In the statement, Whitmer assured the public that the Michigan State Police will conduct a transparent, independent investigation of the fatal shooting.

“Then, prosecutors must consider all the evidence, follow the law, and take appropriate action on charges,” Whitmer said. “Justice is foundational to safety, and without justice, we are all less safe.”

The governor said that Lyoya’s father asked her to convey his hope that demonstrations in his son’s honor remain peaceful.

“We must come together and build a future where Black Michiganders are afforded equal rights, dignity, and safety in our communities,” Whitmer said.

In the same statement, Gilchrist said the Lyoya family is experiencing “the deep pain that too many have felt, a terrible loss in a moment that feels all too sickeningly familiar.”

Lyoya’s father, Peter Lyoya, described his son as a “generous and caring man whom he wants to be remembered peacefully,” the lieutenant governor said.

“Patrick was a loving father, a loyal friend, and a proud member of the Grand Rapids community who enjoyed sharing fellowship and culture with those around him,” Gilchrist said. “People are frustrated and hurting—searching for answers. Black people in Grand Rapids, in Michigan, and across the country are mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted from generations of struggle. Yet we press on.”

Gilchrist said people must commit “through our words and deeds” to working together “where every interaction within our community, especially those with law enforcement, end with everyone able to return home to their families without harm.

“It is critical now to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation to achieve justice, deliver accountability, and understand what happened, for Patrick Lyoya’s family as expeditiously as possible,” Gilchrist said.

Members of Michigan’s Black Legislative Caucus released statements Wednesday afternoon following the city of Grand Rapids’ press conference addressing the fatal shooting.

“As a father, a son, and a brother, I am devastated for the Lyoya family,” said Sen. Marshall Bullock, D-Detroit, who serves as the caucus’ chairman. “As a Black man, I am angry, scared, outraged and completely frustrated that we are, yet again, revisiting a tragedy that occurs too often in the Black community. The Michigan Legislative Black Caucus is calling for justice and demanding full accountability and transparency in this tragic murder.”

Sen. Adam Hollier-Detroit described Lyoya’s death as an “execution.”

The senator from Detroit released a video on social media saying that had Lyoya not been a Black man in his 20′s, he would still be alive.

“It’s time to truly address the root cause and effect of over-policing Black people. The level of savagery that this human life was taken with would be incomprehensible if it were not so common inn our society. It feels like every day, one more thing gets added to the list of things you must teach your sons about when interacting with the police and survival,” Hollier said in a statement.

“This officer should not be put on administrative leave pending an investigation. We saw what happened. It’s time to send him to jail like we would with any other person who murdered someone in a neighborhood on camera,” the state senator said.

Hollier said the video is indicative of the threat Black people face from “an uncontrolled, ill-trained, and systematically flawed policing system.”

“There is no more dominate position than back control or a position less necessary to discharge your firearm. #PatrickLyoya lay dead motionless as his murder sits on his back & I just can’t bottle all the rage I have today,” Hollier tweeted Wednesday.

Legislative leaders from around Grand Rapids also issued statements Wednesday afternoon.

“No parent should have to bury their child after a simple traffic stop,” said Rep. Rachel Hood, D-Grand Rapids, who offered her condolences “and continued action on responsible reforms,” as Lyoya’s family grieves the loss of their son.

Rep. David LaGrand, D-Grand Rapids, said he was in Lansing on Wednesday but had already been in contact with city leaders to advocate for immediate steps to improve police policies.

“Patrick Lyoya is dead, at the hand of a police officer in Grand Rapids,” LaGrand said in a statement.

“For all the focus on justice that has happened in our nation and our community in recent years, another young Black man is dead, and our community cries out for answers, and for justice. For all the voices raised to testify that Black Lives Matter, that justice must include us all, we are a long way from a just society.

“We need justice in our community, but Patrick’s family needs Patrick back, something none of us can give them... I will head back and keep working to help our community work for change, to grieve and to improve,” LaGrand said.

Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, pointed out Wednesday that the Michigan Legislature has not taken up any efforts to pass police accountability measures.

“We have put exactly zero pieces of police reform legislation on the Governor’s desk,” Irwin tweeted.

“While the family of Patrick Lyoya and the people of Grand Rapids grapple with the release of video documenting his killing, I want to remind you that the Michigan Legislature has done nothing to improve the laws that govern police,” he said.

Irwin gave several examples of proposed legislation that have stalled in committees for multiple sessions: Requiring de-escalation training or implicit-bias training, requiring independent investigations of police misconduct or banning no-knock warrants.