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Patrick Lyoya: Then-officer who fatally shot Black man will stand trial for the killing in Grand Rapids, Michigan


The White former police officer who fatally shot Patrick Lyoya, a Black man, this year in Michigan will stand trial for the killing, according to a judge’s memo posted online and announced in court Monday.

Former Grand Rapids Police officer Christopher Schurr faces a single charge of second-degree murder, state District Court Judge Nicholas Ayoub said. He has pleaded not guilty.

Lyoya’s final moments were captured in videos released to the public that show him running away from Schurr before he is tackled to the ground and shot in the back of the head. Like the deaths of other Black men at the hands of police, the Lyoya case prompted protests, with demonstrators chanting, “Justice for Patrick.”

Second-degree murder in Michigan is a death caused by the defendant with malice and without justification or excuse.

The judge Monday found there was no real question whether the officer’s actions caused Lyoya’s death with malice, ruling, “The only real debatable question here is whether defendant’s actions were justified under the law.”

The prosecution presented probable cause to support the charge, Ayoub told the courtroom, describing his own role as a “very limited check” on prosecutors. A jury will be tasked with the fuller job of determining the facts and verdict in the case, he said.

“The reasonableness of those actions can hardly be fully and fairly judged by one person in a black robe with 20/20 vision of hindsight and from the comfortable and safe vantage point of the high perch of the armor-plated judge’s bench,” the judge told those who attended.

“It is precisely, though, for this reason that questions of reasonableness and all questions of fact are determined by a jury after a full and fair trial.”

Wearing a gray suit, Schurr did not visibly react to the decision. His defense attorney waived circuit court arraignment on his behalf, and the judge stated that bond would be continued.

Lyoya family attorneys Ben Crump and Ven Johnson praised the judge’s ruling.

“The case will now rightfully move to trial, which is the next step in our pursuit for obtaining full and complete justice for the murder of Patrick Lyoya,” they said in a statement. “Our legal team will continue to fight to ensure former Grand Rapids police officer Christopher Schurr and the City of Grand Rapids are held accountable for his actions.”

The ruling comes just over six months after Schurr fatally shot Lyoya during a struggle as the officer tried to arrest him during a traffic stop. Schurr and Lyoya had grappled over his Taser, and after Lyoya gained control of the weapon, Schurr pulled out his firearm and killed him, the judge said in recounting the facts of the case.

Schurr was “justified in his use of force,” his lawyer Mark Dodge has argued. He was fired about two months after the encounter.

Lyoya had three outstanding warrants and a revoked driver’s license at the time he fled the traffic stop.