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We need to think about and develop strategies in the event that Officer Schurr is not charged or found guilty of killing Patrick Lyoya

June 7, 2022

Today, marks the 66th day since Officer Christopher Schurr shot and killed Patrick Lyoya. Schurr has been on paid leave since he shot Lyoya in the back of the head, but word is the he is not staying at his home and might be out of town.

The Justice4Patrick movement has been demanding that Christopher Schurr be arrested and tried for murder. The Kent County Prosecutor, Chris Becker, who has refused calls for his recusal in this case, has yet to make any decision on what the fate of Officer Schurr is.

There have been some who are suggesting that when this much time passes that the likely outcome will be that Christopher Schurr will not be charged with murder. No one really knows if this is the case, but we do know that the way that the law is written around “use of force”, sides with the police. Here is what the law in Michigan says about use of force:


  • Under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, a law enforcement officer may only use such force as is “objectively reasonable” under all of the circumstances. The standard that courts will use to examine whether the use of force is constitutional was first set forth in Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989), and expanded by subsequent court cases. The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable law enforcement officer on the scene at the moment the force was used, rather than with 20/20 vision of hindsight. The reasonableness must account for the fact that law enforcement officers are often forced to make split-second judgments – in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving – about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation. 
  • Reasonableness will be determined by balancing the nature and quality of the intrusions with the countervailing governmental interests. The question is whether the law enforcement officer’s actions are objectively reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances confronting the officer. Objective factors will determine the reasonableness of force including, but not limited to, the severity of the crime, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the law enforcement officers or others, and whether the suspect is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. 
  • Enforcement members shall only use force which is objectively reasonable under the totality of the facts and circumstances to overcome a subject’s resistance, to make an arrest, or maintain proper custody of a prisoner, when a resisting subject de-escalates his/her resistance, the enforcement member shall also de-escalate the amount of force used proportionately.

We know that the Grand Rapids Police Officer’s Association, which released a statement on April 26, believes that Officer Schurr was justified in his use of force, stating:

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, in order to return to his/her family at the end of their shift.”

Then there are the four major FOIA documents regarding this case, documents obtained by WOOD TV8, which are all documents based on the GRPD reporting from April 4 when Officer Schurr shot and killed Patrick Lyoya. The language of these documents suggest that Schurr followed “proper procedure.”

In addition, there have been people cited in local news stories about the GRPD killing of Patrick Lyoya, which have also justified Officer Schurr’s use of force. In late May, an article posted on MLive, cites John Riley, the founder of Gentle Response Conflict/De-escalation Training, who said, “he believes Schurr followed his training properly and did everything he could to try to de-escalate the situation, including telling Lyoya to stop resisting several times.” In fact, Riley had posted three separate opinion pieces about the GRPD killing of Patrick Lyoya on his website. 

The first entry is a lengthy argument that Officer Schurr did follow de-escalation protocol, stating: 

Argue, debate, and pontificate whether or not the shooting was righteous and justified, but do not dare say the officer did not try to successfully and effectively de-escalate and control the situation, first verbally and then physically.  Mr. Lyoya’s significant contributing factor to this tragic incident was his own behavior and actions, which guided, lead and turned what would have been a ticket and a few hours in jail into a fatal shooting.

In the second blog post, John Riley is talking about misconceptions of what de-escalation is, stating:

2 misconceptions from the tragic OIS in Grand Rapids.  I point out and emphasize in my seminars that there are no magic words or phrases that will just “de-escalate” a person or situation. The other person MUST be able to allow themselves to be de-escalated, and in this tragic incident was a man who clearly did not want to de-escalate, though that officer frantically, then desperately tried very hard to.

In the third, and finally blog post from Riley, where he continues to blame Patrick Lyoya for his own death, he states:

In this sad, tragic incident, an intoxicated driver, whose judgement and decision making abilities are further affected by the amount of alcohol he consumed, chose to physically resist lawful authority.  The officer is legally obligated to make an attempt to detain the driver because it’s his job, and can be heard on his body cam saying 7 to 8 times, “Stop!”.  Had Patrick Lyoya simply stopped, and surrendered to lawful authority, like his record shows he has done so in the past, the officer would not have found himself in a situation where he believed he was in danger of great bodily harm or death.

All of this is to say that there is a strong possibility that Officer Christopher Schurr will not be charged with murder by Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker. However, even if Schurr does go to trial, there is also the strong possibility that he will not be found guilty. These are possibilities that the Justice4Patrick Movement needs to come to terms with and to begin to develop strategies and tactics that will be necessary if the GRPD gets away with murder.

There is a possibility that Officer Schurr could be charged with murder and later found guilty of that charge. If this happens, then it will bring some relief to the family of Patrick Lyoya and possibly lead to some healing in the larger community. However, even if this is the outcome, the response from the GRPD and Grand Rapids City Officials has been deplorable and oppressive. We should see their response as a normative practice when responding to public demands. This too should inform our movements moving forward and should cause all of use who are on the side of liberation and abolition to reflect and reformulate how we move forward in our efforts to radically imagine the kind of community we want to live in.

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