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Former GRPD officer Christopher Schurr appears in court for preliminary examination

The preliminary examination will be vital in determining whether there's enough probable cause for the case to head to trial.
Credit: WZZM 13

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Seven months after Patrick Lyoya was killed during a traffic stop in Grand Rapids, the former officer who killed him is appearing in court in person for the first time.

Former Grand Rapids Police officer Christopher Schurr is facing a second-degree murder charge, which carries a potential sentence of up to life in prison.

Thursday's preliminary examination will be vital in determining whether there's enough probable cause for the case to head to trial.

Schurr's preliminary hearing was delayed twice, in August and in September.

The exam is taking place in Judge Nicholas Ayoub's courtroom.

Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker announced the second-degree murder charge against Schurr in early June. 

The shooting happened Monday, April 4 just after 8 a.m. near the intersection of Griggs Street and Nelson Avenue SE in Grand Rapids. Schurr pulled Lyoya over, who was driving with a friend in the passenger seat.

Lyoya got out of his vehicle, and after a brief physical struggle and fight over the officer's taser, Lyoya was shot in the back of the head and killed.

The investigation was handed to Michigan State Police, who sent Becker their partial findings on April 28. Becker received the full report May 31.

Schurr was fired from the police department in June, two months after the shooting.

During the preliminary hearing, key evidence will be presented.

"Although all of the evidence associated with the matter isn't presented at the prelim because it's not needed, certainly the most important evidence usually is presented at a prelim," said Sarissa Montague, a Criminal Defense Attorney at Levine & Levine in Kalamazoo.

It's expected Becker will present evidence by calling witnesses to the stand.

"Anyone who is an eyewitness to a case usually gets brought in," said Montague. "Anyone who has any pertinent information about what happened on that day, but not information from what they read on the news, but personal information that they have, either because they were involved in the investigation, or they were there at the time that had happened."

As far as how much evidence can be presented, there's really no limit. 

"Sometimes they can take 20 minutes. Sometimes they take place over a course of a month. It depends on the specific situation and the amount of evidence that needs to be presented," said Montague. "So there's no magic formula, it's up to a prosecutor's office to determine how much they need to show in order to get the finding that they're hoping to get."

Schurr's defense team will have a chance to cross examine the witnesses although typically defense witnesses are not called during a preliminary exam.

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, multiple records of the shooting were released, including witness interviews, incident report and dispatch recordings.

One thing that has not been made public, however, is Schurr's narrative of the shooting and the reason he used force.

"It doesn't mean that just because a case gets bound over at the preliminary exam that that person will be convicted at trial where the standard is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Those are two very different things," said Montague.

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