GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (FOX 2) - The Kent County Prosecutor announced second-degree murder charges against Grand Rapids Police Officer Christopher Schurr for the shooting death of Patrick Lyoya on April 4.
Prosecutor Chris Becker announced the charges during a 3 p.m. press conference after more than two months of investigation by his office and the Michigan State Police.
Second-degree murder is a felony offense and he could face life in prison, if convicted. Schurr is being charged after shooting and killing Lyoya in the back of the head during a struggle. Schurr pulled Lyoya over that day due a license plate issue. The plate on the car Lyoya was driving did not match the vehicle.
"The elements are relatively simple. First, there was a death done by the defendant and when the killing occurred, the defendant had one of these three states of mind: an intent to kill, intent to do great bodily harm, or an intent to do an act that the natural tendency of that act would be to cause death or great bodily harm, and finally that the death was just not justified or excused, for example, by self-defense," Becker said.
The police department learned of the charges on Wednesday and Schurr turned himself in, Becker said. He's expected to be arraigned Friday.
Police Chief Eric Winstrom announced that Shurr will be suspended without pay, pending termination. The chief said he was filing the paperwork by the end of business today.
During his press conference, Becker said that the case would not be tried in the media but would be tried in the courtroom.
"Given that I filed charges and we have all of you here today, the Michigan rules of professional conduct severely limit what I can say. I'm not going to be able to get into the facts, the circumstances, the decisions I made to get into this process. The rules of professional conduct are pretty strict. This case needs to be tried in a court of law, not necessarily in the public," Becker said.
The prosecutor said second degree murder was the highest charge he could file against Schurr.
The officer was not charged with felony firearm charge, which is typically added onto underlying felony charges. The reason for this, Becker said, is that's due to a ruling in 1991.
"In 1991, the Michigan Supreme Court, in the People vs. Kahoury, ruled that felony firearm cannot be charged against a police officer who used a gun in the performance of their duties," Becker said.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel applauded the decision and investigation.
"At the Department of Attorney General, we understand the exceptional resources needed to evaluate police-involved shooting deaths and I commend Prosecutor Becker, his team and the Michigan State Police for the exhaustive review conducted these last two months. We must now respect the judicial process and allow the facts of the case to be presented in court," Nessel said.
On April 13, Grand Rapids Police released graphic video that showed the interaction between Lyoya and Schurr. Lyoya, who immigrated to the U.S. from Congo with his family, appeared to be confused and then started to run from the officer.
The traffic stop was tense from the start. Video shows Lyoya getting out of the car before the officer approached. He ordered Lyoya to get back in the vehicle, but the man declined and asked why he was being pulled over.
The officer told him it was because of an issue with the license plate on the car. Then he asked Lyoya if he spoke English and demanded his driver's license. The foot chase began soon after, video shows.
During the chase, Schurr pulled out his Taser and deployed it twice before Lyoya grabbed the entry cartridge. Schurr demanded he let it go before eventually getting Lyoya to the ground and ultimately shooting him in the back of the head during a struggle.
In a cell phone video recorded by the passenger in Lyoya's car, the officer is seen on top of Lyoya as he is face down. The officer tells him to drop the Taser and reaches to his belt for his gun.
Lyoya tries to stand up with the officer on his back. That's when the officer pulls out his gun and fires it one time, hitting him in the back of the head and killing him instantly.
Police Chief Eric Winstrom said Lyoya was shot in the head.
The officer then sat on top of Lyoya's motionless body and demanded the witness get back.