AP

Witness: Cop had ‘upper hand’ before killing Black motorist

Oct 27, 2022, 11:16 AM | Updated: 2:01 pm

Aime Tuyishme testifies during a court hearing for ex-Grand Rapids police officer Christopher Schur...

Aime Tuyishme testifies during a court hearing for ex-Grand Rapids police officer Christopher Schurr at the Kent County Courthouse in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Thursday, Oct. 2627 2022. Schurr is charged with second-degree murder for fatally shooting Black motorist Patrick Lyoya in the back of the head on April 4. (Cory Morse/The Grand Rapids Press via AP)

(Cory Morse/The Grand Rapids Press via AP)

A Michigan police officer who killed a Black motorist “always had the upper hand” during a physical struggle that preceded the shooting, a witness testified Thursday.

A judge in Grand Rapids, Michigan, began hearing evidence to determine if Christopher Schurr will stand trial for second-degree murder in the April death of Patrick Lyoya. The legal standard at this stage is probable cause, a low threshold.

Lyoya, a 26-year-old native of Congo, was on the ground when he was shot in the back of the head following a traffic stop, short foot chase and intense scuffle in a residential neighborhood. The incident was recorded on police and bystander video.

Schurr’s lawyers argue that he acted in self-defense, though he was fired by the police department.

Wayne Butler was getting out of a morning shower when he noticed police lights flashing on his street. He said he was instantly concerned when he saw Lyoya, the driver, outside of the car.

“I could tell Patrick was confused. The confusion is, first of all, you shouldn’t have been out of the car as an African-American male,” said Butler, 41, who is Black. “Don’t you know he’s got a gun, he’s got a Taser, he could kill you? Clearly he didn’t know what the rules in America are about traffic stops.”

Butler said Lyoya began running “like he was disoriented playing tag on two front lawns” before Schurr quickly caught him and the two men began a “wrestling match.”

“The officer is always winning, 60-40. He always had the lead; it wasn’t by much,” Butler said. “You could tell he was getting worn out, but he always had the upper hand.”

Butler said he stopped watching in order to retrieve his phone to record video. As a result, he didn’t see the shooting.

During cross-examination, Butler acknowledged telling investigators last spring that Schurr did nothing wrong. But after watching video of the killing, he said Lyoya’s “execution-style” death changed his opinion.

Video shows Schurr, who is white, telling Lyoya that he stopped his car because the license plate didn’t match the vehicle. Roughly a minute later, Lyoya began to run after he was asked to produce a driver’s license.

Schurr fired the fatal shot while demanding that Lyoya, who was on the ground, let go of the officer’s Taser. The device discharges small amounts of electricity to incapacitate someone.

Defense lawyers summoned a forensic video analyst, Robert McFarlane, who was hired to take all the video created at the scene and closely examine it.

He said Schurr made 20 commands but Lyoya didn’t comply. McFarlane was able to zoom in on how the men struggled over control of the Taser and how frequently Lyoya’s hands were on it.

Bryan Chiles, an engineer at Taser developer Axon, inspected the device, which had been discharged by Schurr but apparently didn’t strike anyone. He said it still could have been used, especially when pressed against someone in “drive stun” mode.

Grand Rapids police Sgt. Nicholas Calati said the Taser was near Lyoya’s hands when officers arrived and found the body.

A state police investigator said there were arrest warrants out for Lyoya at the time of his death, one for drunken driving and another for domestic assault. Schurr’s attorney, Matt Borgula, introduced evidence that fake ID cards were found in the car.

“Certainly the motive of why he was fleeing comes into play,” Borgula told the judge.

For the first time, Lyoya’s friend who was the passenger in the car spoke publicly in court. Aime Tuyishme had recorded the shooting on his phone.

Tuyishme said he and Lyoya had been drinking with friends the previous night and stopped at a store for beer before the encounter with Schurr. He believed Lyoya pulled over because of a strange car noise, not a police stop.

“I really don’t want to watch this video over and over,” Tuyishme said during questions by the defense.

He said he didn’t know Lyoya’s last name but described him as “like a brother.”

The hearing will resume Friday. Grand Rapids, which has a population of about 200,000, is 160 miles (260 kilometers) west of Detroit.

Lyoya’s killing by an officer came after numerous others in recent years involving Black people, including 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.

___

Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwritez

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Arizona will not approve new housing construction on the fast-growing edges of metro Phoenix that r...

Associated Press

Arizona Senate passes plan to manage rural groundwater, but final success is uncertain

A plan to manage rural groundwater passed the Arizona Senate amid concerns about the availability of sufficient water for future generations.

2 days ago

A woman pauses while shopping at a Kohl's store in Clifton, N.J., Jan. 26, 2024. On Thursday, Feb. ...

Associated Press

Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge picked up last month in sign of still-elevated prices

An inflation gauge favored by the Federal Reserve increased in January, the latest sign that the slowdown in U.S. consumer price increases is occurring unevenly from month to month.

3 days ago

This undated image provided by Mikel Desmond shows his brother Marcus Tessier, who turned up in Dem...

Associated Press

Missing teen with autism found in New Mexico, about 200 miles away from his Arizona home

A missing teen with autism has been found in New Mexico — about 200 miles away from his home in southern Arizona.

3 days ago

A newly released report on last year’s fatal crash involving a pickup truck and a group of bicycl...

Associated Press

Report suggests steering of vehicle that caused fatal Goodyear bicycle crash worked fine

A new report on last year’s fatal Goodyear bicycle crash has cast doubts about the driver’s claim the vehicle’s steering locked up.

4 days ago

Israeli Embassy...

Associated Press

US airman dies after setting himself ablaze outside Israeli Embassy in Israel-Hamas war protest

An active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force has died after he set himself ablaze outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C.

6 days ago

Biden and Trump to visit Mexico border Thursday immigration...

Associated Press

Biden and Trump both plan trips to the Mexico border Thursday, dueling for advantage on immigration

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump will make dueling trips to the U.S-Mexico border on Thursday.

6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

...

Canvas Annuity

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.

Witness: Cop had ‘upper hand’ before killing Black motorist