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The ongoing court case and Grand Rapids news media coverage of the ex-cop who murdered Patrick Lyoya

September 25, 2022

On Friday, there was a meeting between the Kent County Prosecutor and the legal team representing Christopher Schurr, the ex-GRPD cop who was charged with 2nd degree murder in the killing of Patrick Lyoya.

I, along with several other Justice4Patrick activists, were present in the courtroom on Friday, although most of the meeting between the lawyers and the judge, took place in the judge’s chambers. 

Twenty minutes after the scheduled court hearing, lawyers from both sides came out, but 5 minutes later they left. Eventually the legal teams returned, along with the judge, to talk a bit about whether or not the lawyers representing Schurr had all of the documentation necessary to move forward. The lawyers representing Schurr said they now had all the documents they requested in order to move forward. The judge then set October 27 as the next court date for a hearing on this case. October 27 is a Thursday, but the judge made it clear that they were also reserving October 28th as well, in case the hearing would spill over into a second day.

Local News Media Coverage

Also present in the courtroom were several local commercial news media agencies – MLive, WOOD TV8, WZZM 13 and Fox 17. I found stories from all of the news agencies, except from Fox 17. What follows is a brief deconstruction of the local news coverage.

The MLive story, ran as its headline, Key hearing date set for former Grand Rapids officer accused in Lyoya’s shooting death. As the headline suggests the story was mostly about the date that the judge set for the next hearing in this case, plus the MLive story did acknowledge that the lawyers from both sides did meet in the judge’s chambers. In addition, the MLive story had one paragraph about what happened on April 4th, when Christopher Schurr shot and killed Patrick Lyoya. There was also a paragraph about legal proceedings leading up to now. MLive also included 8 photos, all of which were of the legal teams and the judge, plus one picture of Christopher Schurr sitting on top of Patrick Lyoya, just before he was shot in the back of the head.

The WOOD TV8 story had some of the same information, but also included a comment made by Patrick Lyoya’s father in August, regarding the the court delays were affecting their family. In addition, channel 8 included this:

Some anti-police activists attended the brief Friday court session at which the hearing date was decided. One posed a question to Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker as he prepared to leave the courtroom. “Why doesn’t Schurr have to appear for the court date like everyone else?” the activist inquired. Becker said, “It’s up to the judge,” to which the woman responded, “Preferential treatment.”

WOOD TV8 was the only commercial news agency to acknowledge that there were activists there, referring to them as “anti-police activists.” It is worth noting that this exchange between activists and the Kent County Prosecuting Attorney did take place after everyone left the court room, yet channel 8 felt it was content worthy to share. It was the only “drama” of the day, which is probably why WOOD TV8 included it.

The WZZM 13 story was the worst of the bunch, since it was written before the judge announced the October 27 hearing date. Not only did the story fail to provide information on the next court date, they included video of Schurr’s lawyer commenting on June 21st.  

Omissions in the local news coverage

There were also a few critical omissions in the local commercial news media coverage of the court proceedings in the case involving Christopher Schurr, the ex-cop who shot and killed Patrick Lyoya. 

The first omission has to do with the fact that one of Schurr’s legal team, Mark Dodge, had recently represented another GRPD cop who was found not guilty of intentionally discharging his firearm when approaching a Black man.

The second significant omission has to do with a comment from Mark Dodge, a comment the lawyer made on June 11th, after the initial court date, where Dodge was representing Schurr. The statement reads:

We were disappointed to learn that Officer Schurr has been charged with murder by the Kent County Prosecutor. Officer Schurr is a decorated member of law enforcement who has dedicated his career to helping others and protecting the citizens of Grand Rapids. The evidence in this case will show that the death of Patrick Lyoya was not murder but an unfortunate tragedy, resulting from a highly volatile situation. Mr. Lyoya continually refused to obey lawful commands and ultimately disarmed a police officer. Mr. Lyoya gained full control of a police officer’s weapon while resisting arrest, placing Officer Schurr in fear of great bodily harm or death. We are confident that after a jury hears all of the evidence, Officer Schurr will be exonerated.

This statement is important, since it not only suggests that Schurr was justified in shooting Patrick Lyoya in the back of the head, it reflects the sentiment that the Grand Rapids Police Officer’s Association (GRPOA) has taken and many others in the community. On September 2, the GRPOA wrote on their Facebook page, “Never a doubt Officer Bauer would be acquitted.  What a waste of tax payer dollars. Way to go Becker!! Officer Schurr will be the next to be acquitted.” We have also documented that numerous people have suggested that Patrick Lyoya was at fault and ultimately responsible for his own death, like the guy who spoke at a Grand Rapids City Commission meeting in August. Lastly, it is important to acknowledge that the Black community and the African immigrant community continue to be traumatized by what Christopher Schurr did to Patrick Lyoya. Unfortunately, none of the trauma experienced by these communities is reflected in the ongoing commercial news media coverage of this case.

We will continue to report on this case and the legal proceedings, as well as track the commercial news media coverage, which has been filled with misinformation at times and demonstrates a certain bias, particularly how they often frame their stories and which source they disproportionately use. This was particularly the case in the June court date coverage and the MLive story profiling Christopher Schurr, which perpetuated a form of White Saviorism and White Supremacy.

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