OpEd by Adam Hollier
Apr 20, 2022
Published in USA Today: Fatal police shooting could easily have happened to me. God willing, we will have solved this problem before my son is old enough.
I'm frustrated, I'm angry, I'm upset. Again, we're in a moment where we lost someone whom we shouldn't have lost over something that should never have happened.
Patrick Lyoya is dead today because the license plate didn’t match the car he was driving. And when confronted by the police, he failed to comply with the instructions he was given and ran in fear. None of those actions have a penalty equivalent to the result. The results are what matters. Patrick is dead, and his children will grow up without a father.
We've seen this for years. I remember the Fruitvale station incident in California where we saw an officer on top of Oscar Grant, 22, shoot him in the back then claim he meant to use his Taser. In these newly released videos from here in Michigan, you clearly hear the person who was in the passenger seat say Lyoya doesn't have a hold of the officer's Taser. And the officer still shoots him. He still kills him.
My father, my son – we don't want thoughts and prayers
This is not a moment where we want thoughts and prayers. This is not a moment where we want to see other people talk about what could have happened or what should have happened. We want action.
I know this could be me on any day. Black and Indigenous people are killed by the police at the highest rates. For all victims of fatal police shootings, the average age at death is 34. I’m 36.
God willing, we will have solved this problem before my son is old enough, but 15 years ago we were dealing with this, 20 years ago we were dealing with this, even 60 years ago we were dealing with the need for police reform. I talked to my dad about him dealing with these moments where police officers pull him over for no real reason and put a gun to his head because they could. This is not some aberration. This is not something that just happens. This is the reality of being a Black man. This is the reality of the world we live in. And it's got to change.
How to survive a routine traffic stop
All I want is to raise my son and daughter in a world where, like the majority of parents, I won't have to talk to them about how to survive a routine traffic stop. I am trying to protect them from a world that won't value their life the way I do. But ultimately, I just want to be around long enough to have the conversation with them. My kids are now 1 and 4 years old.
I wish I could say I’m optimistic that we can get reform, but Congress hasn’t done it, our legislative chambers in Michigan haven’t done it, and we haven’t seen reform on the local level. It's abundantly clear that it's OK to kill Black men. No one's going to do anything about it. That's the narrative. And we've got to change that.
This is real for me. It's real for my friends. I can't go out the door without having this conversation. My wife just a couple of days ago was telling me to be safe because police were talking about how they were going to be doing extra enforcement on texting while driving. She said, "Don't even take your phone with you. You don't want to be looking down."
She knew she could become a widow at any moment. Because somebody might have thought I was looking at my phone, because the tags were wrong or because there were fuzzy dice. You name it. Somebody always finds a reason to pull you over when you're Black and you're young.
I hope you're just as frustrated as I am. I hope you are just as tired of people saying that their thoughts and prayers are with the families, that this is an outrage, that we hope the investigation is going to happen quickly and cleanly. But the reality is that's not important. What is important is us actually making the reforms and the changes that are going to be necessary to make sure this doesn't happen again. And that's going to require courage.
Let's do everything we can to make sure we don't have to have the same conversations with our children that our parents had to have with us. We've lost too many; we've learned too many names. And today we're all more than pissed. We're frustrated. We're angered. But we aren't going to stop.
Sen. Adam Hollier, a Democrat, is serving his first term in the Michigan Senate. Representing the 2nd Senate district, Hollier serves Wayne County including Detroit, the Grosse Pointes, Hamtramck, Harper Woods and Highland Park. Hollier is also running for the U.S. House of Representatives in Michigan's 13th congressional district.
This op-ed was based in part on comments Hollier delivered on the floor of the Michigan Senate.