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Prosecutor who charged Michigan cop praised by his critics

Chris Becker handed down the maximum charge he could against officer Christopher Schurr: second-degree murder

Kent County’s prosecutor is being praised by his critics for his decision to charge a Grand Rapids police officer with second-degree murder.

Black civil rights activists in April demanded that a Michigan prosecutor stand aside in the investigation of the police officer who killed Patrick Lyoya with a shot to the back of the head, claiming he was too cozy with local law enforcement.

Chris Becker’s response: "This is what I was elected to do."

Becker, a Republican, filed a second-degree murder charge Thursday against Grand Rapids Officer Christopher Schurr, whose fatal shot following a traffic stop on April 4 was recorded on a bystander’s phone. The announcement was praised by critics who for weeks had said that Michigan’s Democratic attorney general should take over.

“I was shocked, to be quite honest. I was absolutely shocked. I didn’t expect that,” said Cle Jackson, president of the Greater Grand Rapids NAACP, who previously had said that an unbiased investigation by Becker’s office was not possible.

Schurr, 31, was released from jail Friday after appearing in court by video. Bond was set at $100,000, and a not-guilty plea was entered on his behalf. Defense attorneys insist the officer feared for his safety when he shot Lyoya, 26, a refugee from Congo.

The practice of state prosecutors handling police shootings has become common. In Minnesota, the attorney general’s office won convictions against Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd and Kim Potter in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright.

Maine has long given its attorney general sole power in such cases. California requires the attorney general to investigate fatal police shootings of unarmed civilians. New York created a special unit within the attorney general’s office. Minnesota state prosecutors take cases upon request.

In Michigan, Becker could have asked Attorney General Dana Nessel to step in — an option for a prosecutor who has a conflict of interest or needs certain expertise — but he said it wasn’t necessary.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.
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