Within a few minutes of a Grand Rapids, Michigan, police officer pulling over 26-year-old Patrick Lyoya for a license plate discrepancy, he was dead from a gunshot wound to the head.
After more than a week of uncertainty around what exactly happened and ongoing protests from the community demanding justice, police released unedited footage of the shooting Wednesday.
The officer, who has not yet been identified, pulls over Lyoya, who immediately gets out of the car, according to the footage. The officer then tells Lyoya to get back in the car, although he doesn’t.
“Do you have a license?" the officer asks.
"For what?" Lyoya responds.
Lyoya, who fled to the U.S. as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo with his family in 2014, initially appears confused, but the officer confirms he speaks English. Lyoya then tells the cop his license is in his car. He exchanges a few words with someone in the front passenger seat and attempts to walk to the front of the car.
"No, no, no, stop, stop," the officer can be heard saying in the footage, as he grabs Lyoya by the shoulder. Lyoya backs away from the cop and takes off running.
The cop tackles him to the ground, and the two begin to struggle. The cop, who kneels on top of Lyoya at several points, repeatedly yells for him to stop resisting.
After more than a minute, the officer takes out his Taser, and Lyoya puts his hand on the device as it’s going off. The officer tells Lyoya to let go. Moments later, the officer’s body camera turns off, which Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom later attributed to the button being pushed during the struggle.
The two continue to wrestle on the ground for another minute and a half, according to a nearby doorbell camera that also captured the incident. The officer asks Lyoya to “let go of his Taser” and “drop his Taser” at least three more times before pulling out his gun and shooting Lyoya.
Winstrom later said during a press conference that Lyoya was shot in the back of the head.
The footage released Wednesday is pulled from four different sources: the officer’s body camera, the dash cam from the officer’s patrol vehicle, the doorbell camera, and cellphone video recorded by a bystander, who repeatedly says the officer can just speak to Lyoya and that he’s “good.”
Winstrom said the identity of the officer involved will not be revealed to the public unless criminal charges are brought before him. Officials told the public that the officer joined the department sometime in 2015.
As of now, the officer has been put on paid leave, which is standard protocol for the department after shooting incidents, as state police continue their criminal investigation.
Both Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Kent County Prosecuting Attorney Chris Becker promised the public a thorough and transparent investigation is taking place.
Before the video was released to the public Wednesday, hundreds of Grand Rapids residents protested in the days following Lyoya’s death, demanding that the officer be held responsible for his actions. The city has increased security around the area in response, Michigan Public Radio reported.
Several members of Lyoya’s family, who have participated in demonstrations throughout the city, including a candlelight vigil held last Saturday, demanded the release of the video over the weekend, according to local news outlet MLive. The family had seen the video just days after the shooting.
“I don’t want the video to be edited,” Lyoya’s father, Peter, told the outlet at the time. “I want people to see the way my son was killed. I want the entire world to see how my son was executed.”
“I saw the video and could not sleep,” Israel Siku, the family’s pastor and interpreter, told people at a community forum, according to CNN.
Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney who has represented countless families who’ve lost loved ones to police violence, is representing Lyoya’s family.
“The video clearly shows that this was an unnecessary, excessive, and fatal use of force against an unarmed Black man who was confused by the encounter and terrified for his life,” Crump said in a statement Wednesday. “It should be noted that Patrick never used violence against this officer even though the officer used violence against him in several instances for what was a misdemeanor traffic stop.”
Cle Jackson, president of the Grand Rapids’ NAACP chapter, said that the officer shouldn’t have resorted to using fatal force.
"If [Lyoya] was such a threat to this community, I'm sure local law enforcement agents would have probably apprehended him later that day, or within the week. It's as simple as that," Jackson said at a press conference Wednesday.
“The brutal and senseless death of Patrick Lyoya is the result of a police interaction that unnecessarily escalated to violence, the reflection of a policing culture that relies on enforcement and tolerates violent responses to nonviolent situations,” Michigan ACLU Executive Director Loren Khogali said Wednesday.
Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.