A former Michigan police officer who shot a black motorist in the back of the head is on trial for second-degree murder, a judge said Monday.
Judge Nicholas Ayoub announced his decision after hearing testimony and watching a video about Patrick Lyoya’s death in Grand Rapids, Michigan last week.
A jury will decide whether Christopher Schurr’s use of deadly force was necessary “after a full and fair trial,” Ayoub said.
Lyoya, 26, briefly ran away from a traffic stop, then struggled with Schurr across a lawn before the white officer shot him at close range. The last moment last April was captured on video by a man who was a passenger in Lyoya’s car.
According to the video, Schurr repeatedly told Lyoya to take his hands off the officer’s taser. The refugee from Congo was lying on the ground when he was killed.
Ayoub only needed to find a probable reason to send the case to Kent County Court, a low standard at this stage under Michigan law.
Capt. Grand Rapids Police Department Chad McKersie testified Friday that Lyoya gained an advantage over Schurr during an intense physical battle. But the judge noted that McKersie wasn’t sure if Lyoya was trying to flee or attack the officer.
So far “there is sufficient evidence from which a jury could conclude that (Schurr) did not reasonably believe his life was in immediate danger,” Ayoub said.
Schurr’s lawyer argued that the officer was defending himself and that Lyoya would not give up. A forensic video analyst, Robert McFarlane, testified that Lyoya disobeyed 20 orders.
‘He pushed. He pushed, clapped his arms,” attorney Matt Borgula said.
Schurr, an officer for seven years, was fired in June after being charged with murder.
A lawyer representing Lyoya’s family, Ven Johnson, said a trial will be an important step towards “full and complete justice”.
Grand Rapids, with a population of about 200,000, is located 160 miles west of Detroit.
Lyoya’s murder by an officer followed countless others in recent years involving black people, including George Floyd, whose death in Minneapolis sparked a national reckoning of 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.