By Andre Ash
GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Rev. Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy for Patrick Lyoya, at the request of his family. The 26-year-old Black man was fatally shot in the back of the head by a Grand Rapids police officer during a traffic stop in early April 2022.
“This cannot end today,” said Rev. Al Sharpton. “To add insult to the injury they’re telling this family, they will not release the name of the one responsible for this death. …Every time a young black man or woman is arrested in this town, you put their name on over the news. Every time we’re suspected of something, you put our name out there. How dare you hold the name of a man that killed him. We want his name!”
It was an emotional moment for family and people from around the world who gathered to pay their respects to the family of Lyoya. The service was open to the public as nearly 1,500 filled the seats of Renaissance Church of God in Christ in Grand Rapids.
Lyoya lived in Grand Rapids for five years and immigrated to the United States from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2014. Lyoya’s body had lay in a white casket with his native country’s flag draped on top of it.
Following days of public outcry from community leaders, the police agency released video footage of the incident captured from the patrol car’s dashboard, the officer’s bodyworn camera, and from a home surveillance video.
The officer, who has not been named, informed Lyoya that he was pulled over because the license plate didn’t match his car. The range of video images captures Lyoya stepping out of his car and the officer ordering him to get back in the car. “What did I do wrong?”, Lyoya asked.
After some conversation on whether he was in possession of a driver’s license, the officer reapproaches the vehicle and grabs Lyoya, he then pulled away and ran, according to the video. A short chase ensued, followed by the officer tackling Lyoya to the ground and a struggle between the two men on the front lawn of a residence. Video footage from the officer’s camera captures a struggle with Lyoya for his Taser. At some point during the scuffle, the officer’s body camera is turned off and it remains unclear who applied the pressure to turn off the device whether mistakenly or intentional, according to city officials.
Video footage from a witness captured the final moments of Lyoya alive as he lay faced down to the ground and attempted to kneel up while the officer’s body lay on top of him. “Let go of the Taser,” the officer yelled in the moment right before firing the fatal shot.
During Rev. Sharpton’s eulogy, he praised protestors, criticized the withholding of the officer’s name, and federal policing legislation that has yet to pass Congress.
“If the Act has passed the senate, qualified immunity would’ve been gone and that unnamed anonymous policeman would’ve had to think before he shot Patrick, I don’t want anybody in this nation to ask for our vote unless they are pledging they will go to the Congress and pass the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act.”
Rev. Sharpton also called on a US Justice Department to intervene and stand up for civil rights, alluding to not wanting local politics to interfere with justice.
Per protocol, Michigan State Police is leading the investigation into the police shooting death of Lyoyoa and once an inquiry is complete, it will turn the case to the local Kent County prosecutor’s office.
The video released by the police department following community outrage and protests caught the attention of prominent civil rights attorney, Benjamin Crump, hired by the Lyoya’s family who shared the podium during the funeral service.
“For Patrick’s young children, we come here to make a plea for justice. What we witnessed with our own eyes, an unnamed police officer escalated a simple misdemeanor traffic stop into an execution.”
Friday’s funeral service was a celebration of Lyoya’s life as attendees were uplifted in song, prayer, and the call to action. Dignitaries from Congo, and the United States were present at the three-hour funeral including Michigan’s 14th congressional district member.
“This is personal to me,” said Brenda Lawrence, member of the United States House of Representatives. “This is my family, You are family. Today we lay to rest a man, a father, and a victim. Patrick is a human being and we must stand up in America and fight for three things: Justice, transparency, and accountability.”
Faces were marked with tears by Patrick Lyoya’s parent as they sat in the front row near the casket of their son as attendees and speakers gave their condolences.
Fleeing oppression and violence from his home country, earlier in the week, Lyoya’s father expressed a saddening state of affairs for what law and order personally looks and feels like for he and his family. “My heart is really deeply broken,” said Peter Lyoya. “I didn’t know here in America there can be an execution style to kill someone.”
His mother was visibly emotional during a press conference in recent days as she recounted the exchange between the officer and Lyoya, her eldest son. “I am deeply hurt and what to do and I can’t stop myself from crying,” said Dorcas Lyoya. “When we ran away from war from Congo, …I thought I had came to a safe land, a safe place. As I’m thinking now I’m surprised and astonished that my son has been killed with bullets.”
Printed with permission from Andre Ash. He is a Michigan Chronicle Digital Anchor and Digital Storyteller, a follower of news, politics, and a lover of music! He takes a curious approach in the tech aisle, and is a self-proclaimed bowling champ. He is a journalist, serious about the craft, and one who subscribes to a stomach-hurting laugh, often. So yeah, serious, but not too serious. Follow him @ash_isLive