GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Local leaders are reacting after Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom released the name of the officer who shot and killed Patrick Lyoya three weeks ago.
Lyoya was killed Monday, April 4 during a traffic stop near the intersection of Griggs Street and Nelson Avenue SE in Grand Rapids.
Authorities said a GRPD officer initiated a traffic stop on a vehicle with a faulty license plate. Lyoya, who was driving the vehicle, fled from police on foot.
After a physical struggle with the officer, Lyoya was shot and killed.
After weeks of pressure from the Lyoya family and the community, including demands from Rev. Al Sharpton last week, the officer has been identified as Christopher Schurr.
Schurr joined the department in 2015. He remains on administrative leave and has been stripped of his police powers until the conclusion of the Michigan State Police investigation into potential criminal charges.
Winstrom said he released Schurr's name in the interest of transparency, "to reduce on-going speculation and to avoid any further confusion."
A week and a half after the shooting, GRPD released videos that capture the incident, including video from a body-worn camera, in-car video, a neighbor’s doorbell video and cellphone video the passenger of Lyoya's car recorded.
Community members have gathered nearly every day to demand justice for Lyoya.
For local leaders, the release of the officer's name is a step in the right direction, although later than many would have liked.
Kent County Commissioner Robert S. Womack said he's glad the department named the officer, but believes social pressure is likely what led to the release.
"I think it took them too long to release his name," he said. "And I think them taking three weeks to release his name is very much proof that if we had not called in national leadership, we probably would not have his name to this very day."
He went on to say that this case may lead to changes, since the public is getting a closer look at the police department's policies.
"One thing this case is showing us is that the police believe there's a set of laws for the civilians, and a whole different set of laws and policies for the police," Womack said. "So for the first time, here in Grand Rapids, the community is getting a chance to look at these policies, and with the power truly belonging to the people, a lot of these policies might be changed by our city commission, our city managers and those who have been elected to represent us."
Attorney Ven Johnson, who is representing the Lyoya family along with Ben Crump, says the handling of the officer's identification is "insult to injury."
"The family is understandably incredibly upset. The city of Grand Rapids, from the day this happened, has publicly been telling people that they're going to be fully transparent in all of this," Johnson said. "Nowhere else, I've been doing this type of work for over 30 years, have they ever taken this long. And you see the GRPD is taking care of its own before the health and mental wellbeing of the victim's family."
Johnson went on to say that he plans to submit a Freedom of Information Act request to the police department to see if any additional footage of the shooting has been withheld. He also said he's interested in learning more about Schurr's background.
Criminal defense attorney Sarissa Montague, who works for Levine and Levine in Kalamazoo, holds a different perspective on the release of the officer's name.
She said that names are often unreleased unless charges are filed, and that waiting to release Schurr's name does not necessarily reflect positively or negatively on GRPD. She said now that the officer has been identified, "it's time to move forward."
Montague went on to say that when it comes to releasing names in high-profile cases, safety is a concern. She said identifying Schurr could pose a danger to him.
“I think it's very difficult to be able to say whether it's good or it's bad, whether it was how it should have been or how it shouldn't have been," Montague said. "The fact is that this is a very sensitive issue. There are a lot of concerns to keep in mind from safety perspectives. And I think it's up to the people in charge to figure out what is the best route in order to, you know, to keep people safe as things move forward.”
The identification of the police officer comes days after Lyoya was laid to rest.
At this time, no charges have been filed against Schurr. The Michigan State Police is investigating the shooting, and will send their findings to the Kent County Prosecutor's Office to determine what's next.
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