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On the morning of April 4, a police officer spotted a car with an inappropriate license plate traveling through a tree-lined neighborhood in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
It was raining and shortly after 8 am After the officer stopped the sedan, his driver – Patrick Lioya, a 26-year-old black man – came out, according to a video of the incident.
“Stay in the car!” the officer said, adding, “Dude, I’m stopping you.”
Lioya replied with a confused look, asking why.
The policeman asked for Leia’s driver’s license, and after a short conversation with the passenger in his car, Loya closed the door, turned his back on the policeman, and took a few steps away.
The police officer, whose name was not released, then grabbed Lioja, starting an approximately 2-minute fight in which Lioja, according to Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom, appeared to grab the officer’s electric shock. It was over when the policeman pulled out his pistol. Lioja was shot in the head, Winstrom confirmed.
The Grand Rapids Police Department on Wednesday released numerous videos of the incident, which shook the area, sparking protests and questions about whether the shooting, in which a 26-year-old Congolese refugee died, was justified.
Winstrom told reporters at a news conference Wednesday that the department would “investigate” whether Lioya understood the officer’s orders. He also said that as far as he knew, no weapon other than the policeman’s pistol and Taser had been found at the scene. Careful not to draw hard conclusions about the shooting, the chief said he saw it as a “tragedy”.
Other city officials said they were concerned about the incident.
“When I saw the video, it was painful to watch – and I immediately asked, ‘What caused this to happen?'” Grand Rapids City manager Mark Washington said. “And what more could be done to prevent this from happening?”
The shooting came nearly two years after a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, an event that sparked national protests against police brutality and calls for dramatic reform.
Yet in the years since, the rate of police shootings has remained stable, as has the demographics of the victims, according to a Washington Post report. Black people are shot more than twice as often as whites, and most of the victims are young men and men, according to a Post analysis. So far this year, there have been 255 shootings.
On Wednesday night, after videos of the incident were released, barriers were erected at the Grand Rapids police station as hundreds marched downtown, chanting and urging the department to announce the name of the officer who shot Lioya, WZZM reported. Winstrom declined to identify him publicly on Wednesday, saying only that he had been with the police for seven years and was on paid leave.
Michigan state police are leading a criminal investigation into the shooting and will hand over evidence to district attorneys, officials said.
Before the videos were released, Lioja’s father, Peter, told MLive through an interpreter that his family had come to the United States in 2014 from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to escape violence.
“I am the parent,” he said. “What happened to me because Patrick was killed, I don’t want another parent to go through what I went through.”
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) called for a “transparent, independent investigation into the shooting.”
“He had his whole life ahead of him,” she told Lioja.
The department released four videos showing the incident from different angles, including a passenger riding with Lioja and a police camera that went off while the men fought and did not film the shooting.
On April 4, at around 8:11 a.m., a police officer stopped Lioja on a suburban street in the eastern Grand Rapids. Police said on Wednesday that the stoppage was due to incorrect registration of the car.
The videos show that after Lioja was stopped, he got out of the vehicle almost immediately. As the officer told Lioya to get back in the car, he approached the 26-year-old. Leia asked why he had stopped. The officer told him that his registration number did not match the car and asked for Leia’s driver’s license, and also asked him if he spoke English.
“Yes,” Lioya said, though he looked confused.
After the policeman asked for Lioja’s license, Lioja spoke briefly with the passenger in his car. Then he closed the door of the sedan, turned his back on the policeman, and took a few steps away. Then the policeman grabbed Lioya and the 26-year-old man started fighting. Lioya got free and ran away from the policeman on the sidewalk and on the lawn in front of the house, where the policeman collided with Lioya.
“Put your hands behind your back!” said the officer.
“Good!” Lioya replied.
But the struggle continued, with Lioja apparently trying to break free and the officer struggling to stay in control. A moment later, the officer pulled out his stun gun. As soon as the policeman shot him, Leia asked what the policeman was doing and seemed to grab the weapon.
“Let go of the tazer,” said the officer.
After about a minute of fighting on the ground, the officer, hunched over while Lioya was face down on the grass, pulled out his pistol as he told Lioja again to release the electric shock. Seconds later, the officer fired and Lioya stopped moving.
Lioja’s father told MLive that he and his family had come to the United States for peace and protection. But “there was no safety for Patrick here,” he said.