A video shows a Michigan officer on a Black man's back before he fatally shot him
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is promising a transparent investigation after video showed a Grand Rapids police officer shooting a driver in the back of the head. The video shows this happened after the officer and driver struggled outside the car. Last night, people protested the death of Patrick Lyoya. Reporter Dustin Dwyer of Michigan Radio is in Grand Rapids and is covering this story.
DUSTIN DWYER, BYLINE: It was Monday morning, 10 days ago, 8:11 a.m. A Grand Rapids, Mich., police officer stops a driver in a residential neighborhood. Police say the reason for the stop was that the license plate on that car didn't match the description of the vehicle. And as that traffic stop that turned into a foot chase, then a struggle, and it ended with the police officer shooting and killing Patrick Lyoya.
INSKEEP: And a lot of this is captured on video. We're going to play a little bit of one of the videos that was released Wednesday by the Grand Rapids Police Department. This begins as a traffic stop. You see the officer pull Lyoya over, and Lyoya, instead of staying in the car, which is what they tell you to do, steps out of the car. And then there's a conversation on the street. Let's listen.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Can I see your license?
PATRICK LYOYA: What did I do wrong?
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: The plate doesn't belong on this car. Do you have a license or no?
INSKEEP: You hear him saying, what did I do wrong? What happens next?
DWYER: Well, he sounds confused at first. And then what Lyoya tries to do is he starts to kind of walk away from the officer, and then that officer tries to grab him, and Lyoya then runs away. The officer chases after him. You see a struggle. That struggle goes on for more than a minute. Toward the end of this bodycam video, you do see Lyoya reach for the officer's Taser and grab it. And that's - just after that, the police officer's bodycam actually becomes deactivated in this struggle.
INSKEEP: I guess we should be clear. The officer still has his hand on the Taser, has the finger on the trigger, but Lyoya has grabbed the barrel of the Taser at that last second. Then that cam goes away. There are other angles, however, from other cameras, including a cell phone video taken by a passenger in a car, and that captures the actual shooting. What does it show us?
DWYER: Well, it shows us that the Taser goes off twice. And then you see that Lyoya and this officer are on the ground struggling. The officer tells Lyoya to let go of the Taser. Lyoya at this point is facedown. The officer is on top of him, kind of straddling him, trying to push and keep him down. And lastly, you see the officer then reach for the gun at his hip and shoots at the back of Lyoya's head. And that's the shot that kills him.
INSKEEP: Just a shocking moment. How have people in Grand Rapids responded to this?
DWYER: Well, there's anger. There's grief. A lot of people had heard this video described in the past ten days. There had been a number of demonstrations calling for these videos to be released. It's been tense this whole time. There were demonstrations last night. Robert S. Womack is a county commissioner. He's spoken to the Lyoya family, who has called this an execution. The Lyoya family - they're Congolese refugees who came to this country fleeing violence. Womack said he saw the video, and he said it did add extra context to the struggle that led to the shooting.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
ROBERT S WOMACK: But at the same time, whenever you put your knee on a person's back and you take out a gun and you put it to their head, in our community, they look at it as an execution.
DWYER: But what Womack wants now is he says he wants to see charges against this police officer. And for now, Michigan State Police are still investigating. And until that investigation is complete, Grand Rapids says it's not releasing the name of the officer.
INSKEEP: Dustin, thanks for the update.
DWYER: Thank you.
INSKEEP: That's Dustin Dwyer of Michigan Radio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.