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Michigan police officer charged with murder for killing Black man

A still image from a cell phone video taken prior to the fatal police shooting of Patrick Lyoya.

A second-degree murder charge has been filed in Kent County, Michigan, the US, against the officer who fatally shot 26-year-old Patrick Lyoya, a Black man, during a traffic stop in April, according to officials.

A Grand Rapids Police Department officer, Christopher Schurr, shot Lyoya after a struggle during a traffic stop. Four videos released by US police from the incident show Lyoya was shot in the head while the officer was lying on top of him. The videos of the encounter sparked national outrage and calls for the officer to be charged.

Christopher Becker, the Kent County prosecuting attorney, said on Thursday he believes there's sufficient evidence to support the second-degree murder charge against the officer, who acted unreasonably when he shot Lyoya while wrestling with the motorist.

Becker said the charge is a felony offense that is punishable by up to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Ben Crump, a lawyer for the family, condemned what he termed an “unnecessary, unreasonable, excessive use of fatal force” by the officer, who “escalated a small traffic check into a lethal execution” at a news conference.

“Patrick Lyoya immigrated to the United States from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to pursue the American dream and provide a better and safer life for himself and his family,” Crump said when the videos were released. “Instead, what found him was a fatal bullet to the back of the head, delivered by an officer of the Grand Rapids Police Department.”

Lyoya died on April 4, when he was shot and killed by the officer. He was pulled over for a non-matching license plate, the police said. The video released by police shows Lyoya gets out of the car, and the officer gets out and tells him to get back in the car.

Following a physical altercation, the video shows that the officer lies on the back of Lyoya for about 90 seconds as the two scuffle. The officer can be heard telling Lyoya to "stop" and to "let go of the Taser." He then proceeds to shoot him.

Video footage from the incident on April 4th shows Lyoya getting shot in his head while attempting to stop the officer from using his Taser on him after a confrontation following the traffic check.

In this regard, African American writer and journalist Abayomi Azikiwe said the unjust US government system was to blame for the killing.

The system “must be overthrown to achieve justice for African Americans,” he said.

This came after the conviction of three white men for shooting dead unarmed Black man Ahmaud Arbery in February in the US state of Georgia.

On February 23, 25-year-old Arbery was shot dead in the small coastal town of Brunswick, Georgia. The incident captured on video went viral on social media.

“This is a pattern that's been going on for many years in the United States,” said Azikiwe, editor at the Pan-African News Wire.

A series of Black killings by US police have sparked a wave of justice and anti-racism protests in recent years.

Since the killing of George Floyd by a US police officer in 2020, which caused widespread protests in the United States and around the world, the demand for litigation and the fight against racism in the United States has increased.

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