GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As former Grand Rapids police officer Christopher Schurr prepares to stand trial for the death of Patrick Lyoya, attorneys for Lyoya’s family are taking new legal action against Schurr and the city of Grand Rapids.
On Wednesday, Benjamin Crump and Ven Johnson will reveal a civil lawsuit against the city of Grand Rapids and Schurr.
Schurr shot and killed Patrick Lyoya during a traffic stop on April 4.
Johnson first revealed his intentions to file a civil lawsuit in June during an interview with News 8.
“There’s no question the city unfortunately hasn’t stepped up and said they’re responsible for what happened and taken care of it, so we’re going to do the only other thing that we know how to do and that’s to file a case in the civil courts and move along that route,” Johnson told News 8 in June.
In a statement on Tuesday, Johnson’s office promised to share “overwhelming evidence” that it says will prove “excessive force.”
“Obviously they’re looking at the police officer’s action, working for the police department, whether or not the actions were taken were negligent or wrongful,” WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Emeritus Lewis Langham Jr. explained.
Johnson’s office also said it would share evidence that it claims will show “racial profiling.”
To prove racial profiling in civil court, Langham told News 8 the attorneys will be thinking big picture.
“They’re looking at the police department’s structure,” Langham said. “They’re looking at how many arrests were made, how many were minority, how many minorities have been shot, killed injured, arrested versus other parties. Because they’re going to have to make that out. They can’t make it out by just saying the officer was one of color and the person they were trying to arrest was another color. That’s not enough.”
The civil suit comes as the second-degree murder case against Schurr heads to trial. Langham said attorneys usually wait for the criminal case to end before filing a civil suit.
“Then when you end up before a jury in a civil proceeding, you can at least make the statement that not only were they charged, that party has been actually been convicted,” Langham said. “You use that along with in your civil suit when you’re looking for money damages.”
Unlike a criminal case, where the prosecution needs to prove the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard is lower in a civil case.
“It’s pretty much 51%,” Langham explained. “Preponderance of the evidence. More likely than not. So the standard of proof is a lot lower.”
“You look for different things, whether or not there’s hardship, loss of income, pain and suffering,” Langham added. “But you’re really looking at on the part of the lawsuit, whether or not there was some wrongful or negligent act that took place and whether or not those parties are at fault.”
But there’s always the possibility the civil case never goes to trial, instead ending in a money settlement; Like when the city of Louisville paid Breonna Taylor’s family $12 million in a settlement of their wrongful death lawsuit.
Langham said most lawsuits do settle, but he doesn’t think the city of Grand Rapids would do so before the criminal case is over.
“It’s whether or not the city is willing to settle a civil lawsuit, which basically admits some type of wrongful action right with the criminal trial still going on,” he said. “I’m not quite certain that they would be willing to settle the case prior to the criminal action being determined.”
The news conference is scheduled to take place at 12:30 p.m. and will be streamed on WOODTV.com. Lyoya’s father will be in attendance.
The former GRPD officer has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Lyoya. Schurr’s defense team argues he acted in self-defense and in accordance with GRPD policy, while the prosecutor has said the shooting cannot be justified by self-defense.
In October, a judge ordered Schurr to stand trial in Lyoya’s death. A trial date has not been scheduled.
— News 8’s Madalyn Buursma contributed to this report.