Calls for the name of the officer who shot Lyoya | News, Sports, Jobs
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Reverend Al Sharpton has demanded that authorities publicly identify the Michigan officer who killed Patrick Lyoya, a black and Congo native man who was fatally shot in the back of the head after a struggle, telling Lyoya’s funeral on Friday: “We want his name!”
Sharpton’s comments renewed calls from family members and Lyoya activists. He told the roughly 1,000 people gathered at Lyoya’s funeral that authorities could not set a precedent by concealing the names of officers who kill people. Grand Rapids police said they will withhold the name of the officer who shot Lyoya unless he is charged with a crime.
“Every time a young black man or woman is arrested in this town, you put their name all over the news. Whenever we are suspected of something, you put our name there,” said Sharpton. “How dare you hold the name of a man who killed this man?” We want his name!
Mourners from the Renaissance Church of God in Christ, many wearing T-shirts or sweatshirts bearing Lyoya’s image, stood to applaud.
Sharpton noted that Lyoya was killed on April 4, the anniversary of the 1968 assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., putting Lyoya’s death in the context of the national civil rights movement. He said that Lyoya came to America looking for a better life and “ran in an America we know too well. He urged those gathered to continue fighting for justice and called for a federal investigation into Lyoya’s murder.
“We can’t bring Patrick back. But we can do justice to the name of Patrick,” he said.
Sharpton and civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents the Lyoya family, have frequently joined mourners in speaking at funerals for black people killed by police. Sharpton’s praise has included that of George Floyd, whose death in Minneapolis sparked a national reckoning on race; Daunte Wright, who was shot during a traffic stop in suburban Minneapolis; Andre Hill, who was killed in Columbus, Ohio; and Andrew Brown Jr., who was killed in North Carolina.
Crump also called for justice on Friday, saying “An anonymous cop turned a simple misdemeanor traffic stop into a deadly execution.” He said it was a problem of humanity and called on federal lawmakers to pass nationwide reforms aimed at addressing systemic racism in policing.
“World leaders cannot condemn the Russian soldiers who shoot unarmed citizens in the back of the head in Ukraine, but then refuse to condemn the police officers who shoot unarmed black citizens here in Grand Rapids, Michigan”, he said. “If it’s wrong for you to do it in Ukraine, then it’s wrong for you to do it in Grand Rapids.”
After the service, Crump told reporters: “We think the whole world is watching Grand Rapids, Michigan.”
Lyoya’s body lay in a white, open coffin inside the church before the service began. Once the funeral began, the coffin was closed and the Congo flag was draped over it. Under the coffin, a panel bearing an image of the American flag and a photo of Lyoya read: “It’s our right to live” in English and Swahili. Lyoya’s parents and other family members wore black sweatshirts with Lyoya’s picture on the front and the words “Justice for Patrick” along a sleeve.
Lyoya’s mother, Dorcas, sobbed as mourners showed up to pay their respects, and tears rolled down her cheek as live music played and a choir sang.
U.S. Representative Brenda Lawrence, Michigan’s only black congresswoman, read a proclamation honoring Lyoya’s memory, saying he was an American of great distinction whose life and legacy would not be forgotten.
“This is personal to me. This is my family. You are my family. This is my community,” she says. “And if I don’t get up, who will?”
Other elected officials, such as Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss and State Senator Winnie Brinks, were also in attendance.
The funeral program was printed in English and Swahili, and part of the service was led by Congolese community leaders. A translator was present throughout the service. Outside the church, mourners received T-shirts that said “Justice for Patrick Lyoya” on one side and “It’s our right to live!” the other. Some men took off their suit jackets and put the shirt over their dress shirts.
Lyoya, who was unarmed, was face down when he was shot on April 4. The officer, whose name has not been released, was on top of him and can be heard on video demanding that he remove his hand from the officer’s Taser. .
Earlier, the officer is heard saying that Lyoya was arrested because the license plate did not match the car Lyoya was driving. Lyoya, a 26-year-old father of two, refused to get back into the vehicle as ordered, and a short foot chase ensued before the deadly struggle.
“How dare you draw your gun about some car tag?” Sharpton said during his eulogy.
The release of the name of the officer who killed Lyoya was requested by family members and activists. On Thursday, Peter and Dorcas Lyoya, the parents of Patrick Lyoya, joined protesters in Lansing for a march and rally to demand the officer’s name again.
State police are investigating the shooting. The agency will forward the findings to Kent County District Attorney Chris Becker for review of any charges. He told the audience not to expect a quick decision.
Lawyers for the Lyoya family said they believe video collected and released by police shows Lyoya resisting the officer, not fighting him. His parents called the shooting a “execution.”