The former Michigan police officer who fatally shot Patrick Lyoya during a traffic stop in Grand Rapids in April will stand trial for the killing, a judge ruled Monday.
Judge Nicholas Ayoub said enough evidence was presented in a preliminary hearing to require a jury to decide whether Christopher Schurr was justified in shooting Lyoya.
“Factual questions remain as to whether the defendant reasonably believed that his life was in imminent danger or that he was in imminent danger of suffering great bodily harm and that deadly force was reasonably necessary. These are questions of fact that the jury must decide based on the totality of the circumstances as presented by the evidence at trial,” Ayoub said in court order.
Schurr is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Lyoya, 26, who came to the U.S. as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2014. The felony offense is punishable by life in prison.
The men encountered each other on April 4 when Schurr said he pulled Lyoya over because the license plate didn’t match the vehicle he was driving, according to police video released shortly after Lyoya’s death.
Four videos, including from a dashcam and a cellphone, showed Lyoya and Schurr struggling on the ground, with Lyoya apparently trying to take control of the officer’s stun gun. The officer ended up restraining Lyoya with his knee to his back and ultimately shot him as he was facedown on the ground.
“The evidentiary record from the preliminary examination contains enough to allow a person of average intelligence to conclude that defendant’s fear was not reasonable or that the defendant’s shooting of Lyoya in the back of the head was not reasonably necessary,” Ayoub wrote in the court order.
Lyoya’s death sparked a string of protests in Grand Rapids, with hundreds demanding justice and transparency from city and police officials.
Lyoya’s family is represented by civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who called for the immediate firing and criminal prosecution of Schurr.
Kent County prosecutor Chris Becker made the decision to prosecute Schurr in June after he spent six weeks reviewing forensic and toxicology reports, as well as the results of an official investigation conducted by Michigan State Police.