Michigan Police Officer Charged With Murder After Killing Black Motorist – The New York Times
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The video shocked residents: A police officer wrestling on the ground with a Black man who had fled from a traffic stop, then pulling out a gun and firing a single round into the back of the man’s head, killing him.
Over the course of two months, since that April 4 killing of Patrick Lyoya in Grand Rapids, Mich., protesters had marched through downtown, interrupted City Commission meetings and demanded that the officer who fired the fatal shot, Christopher Schurr, face criminal charges.
On Thursday, Christopher Becker, the Kent County prosecuting attorney, charged Officer Schurr, who is white, with second-degree murder.
“What this family hopes for is that more sooner than later — like now, today — that police officers understand that what they got away with in the past they can’t get away with anymore,” said Ven Johnson, a lawyer for the Lyoya family.
It remains relatively rare for American police officers to face charges for on-duty killings, though such cases have become more common in recent years amid public outcry over police conduct and the proliferation of cameras that can either confirm or conflict with an officer’s account. Even when charges are filed, cases can be hard to prove in court. Officers are given a wide berth to use force under the law, and jurors have been known to be sympathetic when police officers assert that they feared for their life.
Mr. Becker, who in recent weeks had rejected calls from activists to hand over the investigation to a prosecutor outside the county where the shooting happened, declined to discuss his charging decision in detail, but said he believed there was a strong case for the murder charge. Mr. Becker said he had waited to finalize a decision until after the completion of a Michigan State Police investigation, which he was presented with last week.
“Obviously I wouldn’t charge it if I didn’t think I could prove it,” Mr. Becker said.
Mr. Becker said Officer Schurr had surrendered to the authorities on Thursday and was likely to be arraigned on Friday. An attempt to reach a lawyer believed to represent Officer Schurr was not immediately successful on Thursday. The Grand Rapids Police Officers Association, which previously released a statement defending Officer Schurr, could also not immediately be reached.
“As tragic as this case is all the way around,” the organization said in April, “we feel a thorough review of this entire situation will show that a police officer has the legal right to protect themselves and community in a volatile dangerous situation such as this.”
Officer Schurr, who grew up near Grand Rapids and has worked in law enforcement for about seven years, could face up to life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder.
The death of Mr. Lyoya, an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo, worsened longstanding tensions with the police in Grand Rapids, a city of about 200,000 people where 18 percent of residents are Black. The case also renewed a national conversation about when officers should face charges for on-duty killings. The law allows police officers to use deadly force when they have a …….
Leave a Comment