Judge to rule Monday if ex-Grand Rapids officer who fatally shot Patrick Lyoya will head to trial

Former officer appeared in court Thursday, Friday for preliminary hearing

Christopher Schurr

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The ex-Grand Rapids police officer who shot and killed Patrick Lyoya returned to court Friday morning for the second day of his preliminary examination hearing.

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Former officer Christopher Schurr was charged in June with second-degree murder after shooting Lyoya in the back of the head, killing him, during a traffic stop on April 4. He appeared in court for the first day of his preliminary examination hearing Thursday, and the hearing is continuing into Friday.

The hearing concluded Friday morning. The judge said he will deliver a written decision on whether Schurr will head to trial at 10 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 31.

What’s a preliminary hearing?

A preliminary examination hearing comes after a person is charged with a crime or crimes and pleads not guilty to said crimes, and before a trial can occur.

At the preliminary examination hearing, the judge observes evidence provided by the prosecutor who charged the defendant. The hearing serves as a sort of mini trial, in which witnesses can testify, and the defense can cross-examine them.

The judge will then determine if the defendant should go to trial based on the evidence they observed. If there is sufficient evidence and the judge finds there is reason to believe the defendant committed the crime, a trial date will be scheduled. If not, the charges against the defendant could be dismissed.

Here’s what has happened Thursday in the courtroom, according Local 4′s Jacqueline Francis:

Stepping into the courtroom for the first time Thursday, the Grand Rapids police officer charged in the killing of Patrick Lyoya was backed by rows of family members coming out in support.

Former officer Christopher Schurr was charged in June with second-degree murder after shooting Lyoya in the back of the head, killing him, during a traffic stop on April 4.

Lyoya was a 26-year-old man who was a refugee from Congo. He was pulled over by then-Officer Schurr because his license plate reportedly didn’t match the vehicle he was driving.

The passenger in Lyoya’s car, Aime Tuyishime, was among the first to take the stand Thursday. Tuyishime answered questions about what he and Lyoya were doing that morning of the shooting, and where they were headed.

“At first I was sitting in car, when I saw them start wrestling, I knew something was wrong,” Tuyishime said. “I got out of the car and took my phone and started recording.”

Tuyishime’s cell phone video is key evidence in the case, showing the Lyoya and Schurr struggle over the taser before the fatal shot is fired.

The defense has argued self-defense, saying Schurr had the right to defend himself against the taser, a weapon that can cause serious injury or death.

The prosecution called another witness who watched the two struggle from his porch.

Witness Wayne Butler said Schurr appeared to do everything right trying to get Lyoya to comply during the struggle. However, Butler went inside the house to get his phone when the shot was fired.

Butler, who saw everything leading up to the shooting but only later saw the actual shooting on video, described it as “execution style.” The defense quickly stopped him, stating Butler can only testify to what he witnessed in real time.

Schurr remained focused throughout the hearing, listening to witness testimony and closely watching the videos play out -- the same videos that brought Lyoya’s parents to tears in the courtroom.

Much of the expert testimony focused on the taser and the potential threat it posed during the incident.

The defense called a forensic video analyst as its first witness. The expert witness synched together the various videos of the incident and presented it to the court.

Related: Patrick Lyoya’s father reacts to decision to charge Grand Rapids officer with 2nd-degree murder


About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.