The Rev. Al Sharpton demanded Friday (April 22) that Grand Rapids, Mich. police officials reveal the name of the officer who fatally shot Patrick Lyoya in the back of the head during a traffic stop, warning that their decision to withhold his identity until he’s charged could set a dangerous legal precedence.
“Every time a young Black man or woman is arrested in this town, you put their name all over the news. … How dare you withhold the name of the man that killed Patrick. We want his name,” Sharpton said during his eulogy.
Sharpton said the danger is that we’ll never know the cop’s name if the grand jury doesn’t indict him.
He warned that if unchallenged, it could establish legal precedence that “if a policeman kills somebody on videotape that he’s holding down and shoots in the back of the head, that if the grand jury doesn’t charge him, then we will never know his name.”
He added, “I came here from New York to tell you that we are not going to let that precedence stand.”
Mourners were gathered at Renaissance Church of God in Christ in Grand Rapids to lay to rest the Congo refugee and father who was shot while face down in a struggle with the unidentified officer.
Grand Rapids, which sits about two-and-a-half hours west of Detroit, in recent years has become one of several western Michigan communities serving as a haven for immigrants fleeing war in the Congo. Each year, between 700 and 1,000 refugees from various nations come to the area, according to the nonprofit Refugee Education Center.
Lyoya had come with his family in 2014 to escape the violence in the Congo, following others out of the war-torn African nation.
Sharpton, head of the National Action Network, called for federal involvement in the local investigation.
The civil rights leader said if a grand jury doesn't indict the unnamed officer then the family will never know who shot their son.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, one of the family’s lawyers, underscored that the killing--which escalated from a minor traffic stop to a “deadly execution”--was witnessed on videotape and confirmed by an independent autopsy.
“This is an issue that affects our humanity because Patrick was a human being, and Patrick’s life matters,” Crump stated.
Lyoya, 26, was shot on April 4. The officer initiated a traffic stop on the vehicle Lyoya was driving because of an alleged faulty license plate. Lyoya fled on foot. A physical struggle ensued with the officer, who subsequently shot and killed Lyoya.
GRPD Chief Eric Winstrom has said he would only identify the police officer if he’s charged.
He has confirmed that the officer’s body camera was found at the scene, but it’s unclear how it came off of him. A video of the shooting shows the struggle between the two over the officer’s taser.
Meanwhile, an independent autopsy has revealed that Lyoya died from a gunshot wound to the back of the head, Crump said on Tuesday (April 19). The autopsy, performed by forensic pathologist Dr. Werner Spitz, was commissioned by Lyoya's family.