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NAACP: Michigan attorney general must investigate Lyoya case

Patrick Lyoya at the gravesite
(Joel Bissell/Kalamazoo Gazette via AP)
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(Joel Bissell/Kalamazoo Gazette via AP)
Family and friends of Patrick Lyoya mourn during the burial service for Lyoya at Resurrection Cemetery in Wyoming, Mich. on Friday, April 22, 2022. Lyoya, 26, a Black man was killed April 4, 2022 by a white Grand Rapids, Mich. police officer.

Asks Kent County Prosecutor to recuse himself.

A civil rights group demanded Tuesday that the Michigan attorney general step in and investigate the police shooting of Patrick Lyoya, warning the longstanding relationship between the county prosecutor’s office and Grand Rapids police could lead to bias.

The president of the Greater Grand Rapids NAACP said he personally asked Chris Becker to recuse himself but that the Kent County prosecutor declined.

“A fair and unbiased investigation cannot occur,” Cle Jackson told reporters. “Fundamentally there are too many conflicts of interest.”

Lyoya, a 26-year-old Black man, was shot in the back of the head by a white Grand Rapids officer, moments after an April 4 traffic stop turned into a brief foot chase and physical struggle, much of it recorded on video. Officer Christopher Schurr ordered Lyoya to take his hands off his Taser before the shooting happened. Lyoya was unarmed.

State police are investigating the shooting. Becker said he didn’t know Lyoya or Schurr, and that he wouldn’t hand the matter to another prosecutor.

“One of the things that makes this different is this is horrendous,” Jackson said. “We can debate all day whether or not it was justifiable or what have you. It is horrendous what this officer — a trained officer of the law — did to Patrick by shooting him in the back of the head like an animal.”

Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, said she won’t get involved unless Becker, a Republican, asks her. Both were elected to their jobs.

“Normal protocol dictates the case is delivered to the local prosecutor,” Nessel said.

Bringing in outside prosecutors to review police shootings is a practice that has gained steam in recent years in an effort to eliminate the appearance of bias. Local prosecutors and police officers work alongside each other every day to build cases, and prosecutors rely on officers’ testimony and evidence they’ve gathered to try to convict defendants at trial. That cozy relationship has long led to complaints that prosecutors can’t possibly be objective when deciding whether to bring charges against officers in departments with whom they work closely.

Schurr hasn’t returned messages seeking comment about the shooting. His name was publicly released by the police department Monday, three weeks after Lyoya was killed. Lyoya’s family wants him fired and charged.

Grand Rapids, population about 200,000, is 160 miles (257.5 kilometers) west of Detroit.

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