On June 9, Kent County, Michigan, Prosecutor Chris Becker announced second-degree murder charges against Grand Rapids police officer Christopher Schurr at a 3 p.m. EST press conference. Schurr fatally shot motorist Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old Congolese immigrant, on April 4 after a traffic stop.
Grand Rapids, a city of about 200,000 located in western Michigan, is a longtime stronghold of reactionary Republicans and the Christian Reformed Church, and has long been known for its institutionalized racism against Black and Brown people. The entire western Michigan area relies heavily on superexploited migrant workers to harvest crops while African American workers are subjected to further racism and poverty in the city.
Becker said the second-degree murder charge against Schurr had already been filed with the court, and said the circumstances showed, based on the evidence the Michigan State Police gathered in their crime investigation, that Schurr committed a “non-premeditated act” in killing Lyoya.
Becker stated the charge carries a sentence of up to life in prison with the possibility of parole and fulfilled the three necessary elements of the charge: that there was a death, the death was caused by the defendant and that the act was done with the intent to kill or do great bodily harm. He said the killing “was not justified or excused by self-defense.” The prosecutor said that Schurr has turned himself in and will be arraigned June 10.
Becker noted at the start of the press conference that his office prepared a letter to the Lyoya family in Swahili, the language of the Democratic Republic of Congo, so that Lyoya’s family would have a “complete understanding” of the proceedings. The family moved to Grand Rapids in 2014 and joined a Congolese immigrant community of about 8,000 people after fleeing war in their country and spending years in an African refugee camp.
The horrific killing of Lyoya, a young worker and father of two, was caught on bodycam and video and outraged people in Grand Rapids and all of Michigan as well as nationally. This vicious, racist murder of yet another young Black man by yet another white cop caused many demonstrations, press conferences, rallies and marches, the disruption of city council meetings and other struggle tactics since news of the murder broke. The Lyoya family has retained renowned civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump to represent them and have vowed to continue the fight for justice for their son, brother and loved one.