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City of Grand Rapids files to dismiss Lyoya wrongful death lawsuit

The family of Patrick Lyoya filed a lawsuit against the City of Grand Rapids and the officer involved in his death, Christopher Schurr
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Posted at 12:00 PM, Feb 07, 2023

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Attorneys for the City of Grand Rapids have filed a legal motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought against them by family members of Patrick Lyoya.

Their motion, filed in federal court, argues that the lawsuit filed failed to lay out a plausible instance of Lyoya’s constitutional rights being violated.

“The shooting death of Patrick Lyoya, although tragic, was objectively reasonable, and a product of an immediate threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer,” it reads.

“The video demonstrates that the officer exhausted each conceivable response to Mr. Lyoya’s escalating resistance before deploying lethal force. It also reveals that the officer did not resort to lethal force until confronted with the new, immediate threat created when Mr. Lyoya wrenched the TASER from the officer’s hand and struggled toward a position from which he could use it.”

The motion a multitude of legal precedents, including ‘Graham v. Connor, saying it established a method of determining if a police officer is justified in their use of deadly force.

“Police officers routinely face ‘tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving’ situations that force split-second judgments about the degree of force required; our calculus must account for that fact,” it reads.

“So we evaluate the force used through the eyes of a reasonable officer at the scene, not with “the 20/20 vision of hindsight.”

They also reference Reich v. City of Elizabethtown, KY, which established, “Lethal force may be used “if the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.”

Another portion regarding police officers using deadly force reads, “The reasonableness of the officer’s use of deadly force must be analyzed based on an ‘objective assessment of the danger a suspect pose at that moment’.”

It continues, “It does not change the analysis if the officer is later determined to have been mistaken about the amount of force that must be used to subdue the threat.”

Lyoya, a 26-year-old Black man, died April 4, 2022, following a traffic stop near the intersection of Griggs and Nelson on the city's southeast side.

Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom released video footage days later on April 13, which shows Officer Christopher Schurr shooting Lyoya in the head following a foot chase and struggle.

Schurr was fired from the Grand Rapids Police force, and subsequently charged with second degree murder in Lyoya’s death.

Attorneys Ven Johnson and Ben Crump also filed a lawsuit on behalf of Peter Lyoya, Patrick’s father.

The lawsuit includes two counts against Schurr for violating federal law in his use of force and gross negligence.

They accuse Schurr of breaching his duties as an officer by failing to make a proper and lawful traffic stop, failure to deescalate, failure to wait for backup, failure to create sufficient space before deploying each taser probe, failure to warn Patrick of his intent to use force before he deployed his taser or gun, failure to use other methods of detainment of apprehension, and excessive use of deadly force with a gun.

The lawsuit also says the city of Grand Rapids is liable for federal law and more violations because it “created the atmosphere at GRPD, which influenced Schurr to use excessive force."

The lawsuit claims the city has an ongoing practice or custom of racial discrimination.

In reference to the accusations of discrimination, the city says in their motion to dismiss that the lawsuit, “does not identify any type of training that could have prepared Officer Schurr for this event, where Mr. Lyoya fought off the officer’s physical attempts to gain control, then wrestled the officer’s TASER away.”

“Nor does it indicate how Grand Rapids police officers (or any other department’s officers) are trained to respond to a similar fact pattern, or identify what additional or different training was required from a Constitutional perspective. In fact, the Complaint does not identify any connection or relationship between police training, the lack of training, or a deficiency in training and the events which make up this encounter.”

Click here for more coverage on the shooting death of Patrick Lyoya.

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