The Michigan police officer who killed Patrick Lyoya with a shot to the head has been with the Grand Rapids department for seven years, after starring as a pole vaulter at a small college and marrying his longtime girlfriend during a church mission trip to Africa. Christopher Schurr’s name had been circulating since his face was seen in videos of the April 4 confrontation with Lyoya, a Black man. But his identity wasn’t publicly acknowledged until Monday when the police chief changed course and released it, three days after passionate demands at the funeral of the 26-year-old native of Congo, the AP reports. Chief Eric Winstrom said he was acting “in the interest of transparency, to reduce ongoing speculation, and to avoid any further confusion," though no other information about Schurr's service with the department was released.
Lyoya, who was unarmed, was face down on the ground when he was shot in the back of the head, moments after a traffic stop in Michigan's second-largest city. Schurr was on top of him and can be heard on video demanding that he take his hand off the white officer’s Taser. A forensic pathologist who conducted an autopsy at the family’s request said the gun was pressed to Lyoya’s head when he was shot. Lyoya's family wants Schurr, who is currently off the job while state police investigate the shooting, fired and charged. Prosecutor Chris Becker said he's waiting for the state police report. “I want to do the right thing. But I realize even if I do the right thing, there is a segment of the population that is not going to be happy,” Becker told MLive.com.
The police department's decision to reveal Schurr's name was a reversal. After the release of video of the shooting, Winstrom insisted he would withhold the officer’s name unless he was charged with a crime. It was described as a long-standing practice that applied to the public as well as city employees. But Lyoya's family and Black leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, repeatedly pressed for it, including at Lyoya's funeral, which drew 1,000 people Friday. “We want his name!” Sharpton shouted, saying authorities cannot set a precedent of withholding the names of officers who kill people unless the officer is charged. Schurr has not responded to the AP's attempts to get in touch; a Twitter account with his name has no associated tweets, and a Facebook page with his name appears to have been taken down.
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