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‘Burying my son’: Parents of man killed by Grand Rapids police officer speak out

(GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.) — The family of a man fatally shot by a police officer in Grand Rapids, Michigan, earlier this month is demanding that the officer be fired and prosecuted.

“It is an unjustifiable use of deadly force because police escalated a traffic stop into an execution,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Patrick Lyoya’s family, said during a press conference Thursday.

Lyoya’s mother, Dorcas Lyoya, who cried throughout the press conference, says she left her home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo “to escape war” and thought her son would be safe here, but is now heartbroken.

“As a parent, I was thinking maybe it was my son who was going to bury me, he will assist at my funeral, but what is so astonishing, I am the one burying my son,” Dorcas Lyoya said through the help of a translator.

Patrick Lyoya’s father, Peter Lyoya, compared his son’s death to crimes seen in other countries.

“I didn’t believe that in this country, that there was a genocide in this country, I didn’t know,” Peter Lyoya said through a translator.

Video of their son’s death on April 4 was recorded on an officer’s body camera, dashcam video, security cameras and a bystander’s cellphone. Police released the footage Wednesday amid community pressure.

The footage shows a white police officer, whose name has not yet been released, struggling with the 26-year-old after chasing him on foot following a traffic stop. The officer eventually forces Lyoya to the ground and is heard shouting, “stop resisting,” “let go” and “drop the Taser,” before shooting him in the head.

While many residents have expressed shock over the incident, Cle Jackson, the president of the Grand Rapids NAACP, says it was a matter of time before such an incident happened.

“We’ve been trying to bring reform for decades here. Some folks here have said, ‘a George Floyd will never happen in Grand Rapids. This would never happen in the city of Grand Rapids’. Now I always have to remind them it’s not if this is gonna happen, it’s just when it’s going to happen. And today is our real day,” Jackson told ABC News.

Jackson says issues involving police officers in the city have been going on for years. In 2018, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights opened an investigation after several complaints against the Grand Rapids police by Black residents, he said.

The department held public hearings where several people voiced concerns, but declined to set a timeline for when the investigation would be completed.

Jackson says the NAACP is intrigued to see if changes will come with the police department’s new chief, Eric Winstrom. The NAACP is joining with the family and Crump in calling for the officer to be fired, he says.

The Grand Rapids Police Officers Association did not immediately respond Thursday to ABC News’ request for comment regarding calls for the officer to be fired.

“I think [Winstrom] has an opportunity to come to Grand Rapids and do the type of cleanup work that needs to happen in this department…the number one metric or the initial metric that we will be able to determine if he is committed to improving community police relations for the city of Grand Rapids is to do the right thing and fire the officer,” Jackson said.

Winstrom said Wednesday that Grand Rapids Police and Michigan State Police are conducting an ongoing investigation and he would not comment further or take any action until after the investigation is completed.

He said the officer is a seven-year veteran of the department who is currently on paid leave and “stripped of all police powers” amid the investigation.

“I view it as a tragedy…It was a progression of sadness for me,” Winstrom said about the shooting.

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