The Grand Rapids Police Department finally has released the name of the officer who shot and killed a Black motorist after he attempted to flee during a traffic stop. Despite local law enforcement promising to be transparent regarding the investigation, the family and other community activists believe the “three-week delay in releasing the name” of the cop who shot the man is “offensive.”
On Monday, April 25, officer Christopher Schurr, who has been placed on administrative leave, was identified as the person who fatally shot an unarmed African immigrant, Patrick Lyoya, on April 4.
The decision to make public Schurr’s identity comes days after Lyoya’s funeral, held on Friday, April 22 at the Renaissance Church of God in Christ, where Rev. Al Sharpton said, “Every time a young Black man or woman is arrested in this town, you put their name all over the news. Every time we’re suspected of something, you put our name out there.”
The civil rights leader added, before demanding the officer’s name be released, “How dare you hold the name of a man that killed this man. We want his name!”
GRPD chief Eric Winstrom released a statement, saying the city has a “long-standing practice of withholding names of any employee under investigation until the conclusion of an administrative investigation.”
“Additionally, while it has been a long-standing practice of the Grand Rapids Police Department to withhold the name of individuals who have not been arrested or charged with a crime – a practice that applies to all public employees, police officers, and members of the public – police reform requires evaluating many long-standing practices to ensure our actions are consistent with the best interests of the community and the individuals involved,” he wrote.
He revealed, “the force decided to release Schurr’s name in “the interest of transparency, to reduce on-going speculation, and to avoid any further confusion.”
However, lawyers for the deceased’s family disagree.
Ven Johnson said in a statement, “An intentional three-week delay in releasing the name of the involved officer, which they clearly knew at the moment of the shooting, is offensive and the exact opposite of being ‘transparent.’”
“Once again,” he continued. “We see the Grand Rapids Police Department taking care of its own at the expense of the family’s mental health and well-being.”
Kent County Commissioner Robert Womack, a public official who has been standing with the family, is pleased with the decision to release Schurr, who joined the force in 2015.
“I’m glad they finally released his name after having national pressure from national leadership coming to Grand Rapids,” Womack said.
“The community had been asking for his name for the last 24 days, and when the community heard it would not be released unless he was charged,” he revealed.
After hearing that, Womack says he “mentioned it to Ben Crump and Al Sharpton” and was glad to hear “Al Sharpton speak on the subject in the funeral.”
Bodycam, dashboard footage, home security video and a visual from Lyoya’s riding companion’s cell phone show Lyoya trying to run away from the officer after he is detained over the validity of his vehicle registration.
At one point, it appears the 26-year-old is reaching for the cop’s taser gun while the two are wrestling. Toward the end, Schurr is hunched over the man before shooting him in the head.
Lyoya’s family has retained forensic pathologist Dr. Werner Spitz, who l revealed last week he believed Schurr’s gun was pressed firmly into the back of Lyoya’s head before he was shot.
The deceased died from that one injury.
Schurr graduated eight years ago from Sienna Heights University with a degree in criminal justice, according to an interview he did with MLive in 2014. While in school, he and his then-fiancée were missionaries in Africa, bringing their Christian faith and building houses in Kisi, Kenya, which is over 1,100 miles away from Lyoya’s birthplace, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The statement on Monday said an official autopsy has not been released by authorities, but will be made public in the near future.
Kent County prosecutors said they will be waiting on the autopsy, and for the state police to conclude their investigation before deciding to charge Schurr for Lyoya’s murder.