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NEW YORK – Bishop David Walkowiak of Grand Rapids, Michigan, has asked the community to pray for Patrick Lyoya, his family, and law enforcement after Lyoya was shot and killed by a Grand Rapids police officer following a traffic stop that turned into a minutes-long struggle.
“Our community is hurt and angry. This pain cannot be ignored,” Walkowiak said in an April 13 statement. “In this moment we are called as brothers and sisters to pray fervently, care for each other, and work peacefully for justice.”
“We must remember we are disciples of Christ and those are not mere words,” Walkowiak continued. “Through baptism, we are called to do our part to share in His mission to build up the kingdom of justice, love and peace, both here on earth and in our hearts.”
The incident occurred on April 4. Videos of what happened were released by the Grand Rapids Police Department on April 13. Hours of protests broke out in Grand Rapids following the release of the videos. The officer, who Grand Rapids police Chief Eric Winstrom said won’t be identified unless charged with a crime, was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by the Michigan State Police.
The videos include the officer’s body worn camera, the dashcam from the officer’s car, surveillance video from a house across the street, and cell phone video captured by a passenger of the pulled over vehicle.
As shown by the videos, Lyoya, an unarmed Black man, was pulled over for driving with mismatched license plates. Lyoya got out of the car from the driver’s seat. The officer then told Lyoya to stay in the car. Lyoya stayed outside of the car and closed the door.
The officer then asked Lyoya if he has a license, and if he speaks English. Lyoya replied that his license was in the car. After the officer asks him to get his license, Lyoya then opens the door and asks a passenger in the car for it. A few moments later Lyoya closes the car door and begins to walk around the front of the car. The officer grabs him and tells him to put his hands behind his head, and a brief struggle ensues in the street before Lyoya breaks free from the officer and runs.
After a brief chase the officer tackles Lyoya in a neighboring yard. The officer tells Lyoya to “stop” repeatedly. Lyoya replies, “OK,” multiple times as the struggle continues. The officer then tells Lyoya to put his hands behind his back, to which Lyoya again replies, “OK.”
As the struggle continues, they both stand and walk across a neighboring lawn with Lyoya’s hands held behind his back. The officer again repeats to Lyoya to “stop,” and “stop resisting.”
Eventually the officer deploys his taser, which Lyoya grabs the front end of. The struggle then goes back to the ground, and the officer manages to get on top of Lyoya. Around this time the officer’s body worn camera goes out. The passenger of the pulled over vehicle then asks the officer to talk to Lyoya and stop grabbing him. The officer then tells Lyoya again to let go of the taser. The passenger replies that Lyoya doesn’t have it.
Moments later, the officer pulls out his gun, holds it to Lyoya, and repeats once more for him to let go of the taser. Lyoya then tried to get up with the officer on top of him. Seconds later the officer pulled the trigger and Lyoya laid motionless on the ground.
Winstrom, who took over last month, said at an April 13 news conference that the officer’s body-worn camera was deactivated because the button that controls the recording function was pressed down for more than three seconds during the struggle. He called what happened “a tragedy.”
Civil Rights Attorney Ben Crump said that the “video clearly shows that this was an unnecessary, excessive, and fatal use of force against an unarmed Black man who was confused by the encounter and terrified for his life.”
“We demand that the officer who killed Patrick not only be terminated for his use of excessive and fatal force, but be arrested and prosecuted for the violent killing of Patrick Lyoya,” Crump said in a statement.
Walkowiak lamented the loss of life, and called for prayers for all those involved.
“We always grieve the loss of life, but especially when it happens in such a violent and tragic way,” Walkowiak said. “Please join me in praying for the repose of the soul of Mr. Lyoya and for his family as they grapple with the loss of their loved one and seek answers,” adding that people must also recognize the impact the incident is having on law enforcement and pray for them, too.
John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg