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GRIID Year in Review Part IV – The GRPD murder of Patrick Lyoya

December 28, 2022

In Part I of our Year in Review for 2022, we looked at how the local news media (mis)reported on critical issues in Grand Rapids. In Part II, we looked back at what the Far Right in West Michigan was doing over the past year. With Part III, we looked back at the activity of the Grand Rapids Power Structure, how they expanded their wealth, how they influenced electoral outcome and how they colluded with local government. Today, we want to look back at the most reported issue in Grand Rapids for 2022, the GRPD murder of Patrick Lyoya. 

As we mention in Part I, GRIID responded with 14 posts to local news media coverage on the police killing of Patrick Lyoya. We also made numerous posts about activist organizing as a result of the GRPD murder of Patrick, but we will discuss that aspect in Pat V, which will cover social movements in Grand Rapids. 

When it comes to articles about what happened to Patrick Lyoya, the City of Grand Rapids and the GRPD response, or the legal aspect of this case, GRIID posted a total of 31 articles. Our first post, from April 5, was entitled, GRPD shoots and kills 26 year old Black man: Deconstructing the PR Spin, also known as a Press Conference. Here is part of what we wrote:  

In effect, the Press Conference was designed to primarily divert attention away from the police shooting of a Black man, both through the rhetoric they used and the fact that they are holding the facts close to their chest until the investigation is complete and the video is released, allowing them time to devise a Public Relations/communications plan.

A few days later, GRIID posted something that no other news sources were discussing, which was an overview of US policy in the Congo since that country began resisting colonialism, how US policy supported political repression, which was the very reason that the Lyoya family chose to come to the US in the first place.

One week after the GRPD had murdered Patrick Lyoya, the Justice for Patrick had generated 108,000 letters to 47 different government officials, but only one had even bothered to respond. Then on April 14, Grand Rapids City officials released video of the GRPD murder of Patrick Lyoya, but used another Press Conference as an attempt to control the narrative.

Once people in positions of power felt comfortable addressing the death of Patrick Lyoya, there were several local government officials that addressed the GRPD murder of Patrick, although none of them called it that. Maybe the most egregious public statement had come from then Kent County commissioner Skaggs, who was running for state office at the time. Here is a summary of the GRIID response to the statement from Skaggs: 

Lastly, towards the end of the statement, Skaggs says, “Throughout American history, change only happens when we elect government officials who are work toward justice and when people peacefully take action to show leaders the changes they want to see implemented.” This is a very White interpretation of US history. Elected officials have overwhelmingly only ever done the will of the people when they are forced to. In addition, to suggest that change only came about through peaceful means in just a god damn lie. People who were enslaved often freed themselves by killing those who enslaved them and burned the fucking plantation. In fact, the Black Freedom Struggle has always had an armed wing throughout history, that often work in concert with the more non-violent branch of that centuries long movement. See the books Force and Freedom: Black Abolitionists and the Politics of Violence, by Kellie Carter Jackson, and, This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible, by Charles Cobb Jr. 

There were also constant attempts by GR City officials to dictate how the community should resist the GRPD murder of Patrick Lyoya. GR City officials were constantly demanding that the community act peacefully, all the while the GRPD was preparing to target activists who were part of the movement. On April 18, we wrote:

For those of us who have participated in the protests over the past week, we have also seen undercover officers in the crowd, cops in buildings overlooking the usual protest areas and cops on rooftops. Such tactics are designed to intimidate people, but their primary interest is to engage in surveillance, with the intent of identify certain people and to have documented footage to use against organizers and protesters in general.

In early May, we wrote about FOIA documents that had been released, but was largely ignored or downplayed by local news and GR City officials. Not surprising, was the fact that most of the requested documents were heavily redacted.

Six weeks after the GRPD murdered Patrick Lyoya, groups like Voice for the Badge decided to respond. Their statement used the same tired arguments, along with unsubstantiated claims. 

On June 10th, the Kent County prosecutor charged the cop who shot Patrick Lyoya in the back of the head with second degree murder. GRIID put together a list of responses from GR City officials and so-called community leaders. A few days later, the lawyers representing the cop that killed Patrick Lyoya, went of the offensive to push their own narrative about what happened on April 4, stating:

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.

We respond by writing, “This narrative about Christopher Schurr was very strategic on the part of his lawyers. First, they want to present Schurr in a positive light, since he apparently, “has dedicated his career to helping others and protecting the citizens of Grand Rapids.” Neither of these claims are substantiated by the lawyers, but they will no doubt be using this narrative as a central part of their case when it goes to trial. This narrative about Schurr is also a narrative that has been perpetuated by the commercial news media, like a recent MLive article from late May that GRIID deconstructs.”

As time passed, GR City officials felt like they could continue to control the narrative and hope that the resistance would fade away. In late June, the GRPD held another Press Conference, and GRIID responded with an article entitled, The Ferguson Effect, handling protesters and other fallacies at the GRPD Press Conference on Friday.

Much of the local news coverage had died down and the only stories presented by the local news media, were specifically about the legal proceedings, like they did in late September and October, often ignoring or dismissing those who continued to protest the GRPD murder of Patrick Lyoya.

In Part V, we will look back at our reporting on the various social movements in Grand Rapids and their important work. 

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