Family of Patrick Lyoya, man killed by Grand Rapids police officer, calls for justice

Grand Rapids – Peter and Dorcas Lyoya said they left the Congo to escape violence. They never expected to find it in America.

And the couple said they were even more shocked that the person involved in the physical force would be a police officer.

Their eldest son, Patrick, 26, was shot by an unidentified Grand Rapids Police Department officer after a traffic stop earlier this month. The two men struggled over the officer’s stun gun before Lyoya was shot in the back of the head while face down on the ground.

“I thought I came to a safe place,” Dorcas Lyoya said through an interpreter during a Thursday press conference.

The Lyoyas and their six children left the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2014 to flee civil unrest spurred by fighting among several rebel groups.

Now the family wants to see the face of the person who killed Patrick. And they want him charged with murder.

During the press conference at Renaissance Church of God in Christ, Peter Lyoya demanded that authorities reveal the name of the officer who shot his son. He said his children keep asking for the shooter’s identity.

“I would love to know the person who killed my son,” he said through an interpreter.

One of those children also spoke during the event. Thomas Lyoya, who said he was heartbroken, described what it was like to watch the video of his brother’s death.

“It was the most horrifying thing I’ve seen in my life,” he said.

His parents also talked about the loss in personal terms.

Dorcas Lyoya said she could not stop crying.

“I thought my son would bury me,” she said. “What is astonishing is I bury my son.”

Patrick Lyoya's parents, Dorca, center, and Peter Lyoya speak to the media Thursday during a press conference at a Grand Rapids church.

Peter Lyoya said he always thought Patrick, as the eldest son, would eventually replace him as the head of the family.

Instead, he said, his son was killed “like an animal.”

“My heart is broken,” he said. “My life was Patrick.”

When authorities allowed the family to see a partial video before it was shown to the media Wednesday, they asked the family not to discuss what they saw, said Peter Lyoya.

He said he was offended by the request.

“You killed him with bullets, and you’re telling me to keep secret,” he said.

‘Justice for Patrick’

Ben Crump, who leads the legal team for George Floyd’s family, and Detroit-based Ven Johnson, who most recently represented student victims of the Oxford High School shooting, were among the family’s attorneys speaking at the press conference.

Crump started by thanking Kent County Commissioner Robert Womack, who pushed for police to release the videos, and welcomed Breonna Taylor’s mother, Temika Palmer, to sit at the front table with Lyoya’s family. He added that Taylor was born in Grand Rapids and “it was no question they had to stand with the Lyoya family in their hometown,” Crump said.

Tamika Palmer, center, mother of another police shooting victim, Brianna Taylor, joined the Lyoya family in support at the press conference.

Palmer, who is still fighting her case after former Louisville police officer Myles Cosgrove sued to get his job back, apologized to the Lyoya family.

“I’m sorry we did not do enough to ensure Patrick was safe …,” she said. “The only thing that needs to happen is that this officer needs to be arrested, convicted and prosecuted.”

They addressed the nine videos released by Grand Rapids police Wednesday, about 20 minutes of footage, saying, “Nothing Patrick did justified (the officer) reaching for his revolver, putting it into the back of Patrick’s head and pulling the trigger.”

They pointed to the last 15 seconds of the video footage saying, “Watch his actions.”

“This is is an execution, there’s no way to spin it,” said Crump, who then chanted, “Justice for Patrick.”

Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker previously requested that police not release any evidence until the investigation is complete.

Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom said he released the videos in an effort to be as transparent as possible but said he lacked other information because Michigan State Police are investigating the incident. He declined to speculate and said the investigation needs to be completed before all facts are known.

The News left a message with Grand Rapids police Thursday.

Detroit Attorney Ben Crump and his legal team spoke to the media and answered questions at Renaissance Church of God in Christ, Family Life Center in Grand Rapids.

Crump said the family is seeking an independent autopsy and once that has concluded, they will say their final goodbyes and bury their son. He said they’re also speaking with state investigators and the U.S. Department of Justice about the incident. The Kent County Medical Examiner’s Office conducted an autopsy, but Medical Examiner Stephen Cohle said the report will not be released until state police conclude their investigation.

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