By Jason Hanna and Michelle Watson, CNN
The family of a Black man fatally shot in the head by a Michigan police officer has sued the ex-officer and the city who employed him, alleging in part that the slain man’s civil rights were violated through excessive force.
Patrick Lyoya’s family filed the civil lawsuit against former Grand Rapids police Officer Christopher Schurr and the city of Grand Rapids on Wednesday in a US district court in Michigan.
CNN has reached out to the city of Grand Rapids and Schurr’s defense attorney for comment.
Lyoya was shot to death on April 4 by Schurr, a White police officer trying to arrest him after a traffic stop in Grand Rapids. Schurr and Lyoya had struggled over the officer’s Taser, and after Lyoya gained control of the weapon, Schurr shot Lyoya in the back of the head as Lyoya was on the ground, authorities said.
Lyoya’s final moments were captured in multiple videos later released to the public. The death led to protests in Grand Rapids, where other interactions between police and residents drew media scrutiny in a city with a history of tension between Black residents and police.
Schurr is awaiting criminal trial in the case, having been charged June 9 with one count of second-degree murder. Schurr, who pleaded not guilty, was fired days after being charged. Schurr’s attorneys have argued the officer was justified in shooting Lyoya.
“It’s clear Schurr unnecessarily escalated a situation involving an unarmed Black man,” one of the Lyoya family’s attorneys, Ven Johnson said, in a news release announcing the suit.
The lawsuit, which asks for a jury trial and unspecified monetary damages, alleges Schurr violated Lyoya’s Fourth Amendment rights by using excessive force, arguing Schurr had no lawful basis to shoot, and that Lyoya “posed no threat to Schurr or any other person’s safety.”
The suit also alleges Schurr violated state law against gross negligence, saying he breached his duties “to act legally and reasonably and to avoid the use of unnecessary and/or excessive force.”
And the suit claims Grand Rapids violated Lyoya’s civil rights. The city has “a policy, practice procedure, protocol, and/or custom that demonstrates deliberate indifference to the rights of the plaintiff and was the cause and moving force behind the violations and harm suffered,” the lawsuit reads.
“Law enforcement officers in this country cannot continue to be absolved of accountability for shooting first and asking questions later,” another of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Ben Crump, said in the news release. “The minor punishments officers often receive do not send a message that will deter other officers from repeating this deadly cycle. This pattern needs to end here with justice for Patrick Lyoya. “
How authorities said the shooting unfolded
Lyoya, 26, was pulled over by Schurr for an allegedly unregistered license plate.
Lyoya, who got out of the car, tried to get away from Schurr after the officer asked for his license, and he traveled about 30 feet from the car before being tackled to the ground, a Michigan State Police detective said in a court document supporting a warrant for Schurr’s arrest.
There was a physical altercation, with Schurr demanding that Lyoya, “stop fighting, stop resisting,” according to a transcript of the detective’s June testimony to the judge who signed off on the warrant.
Schurr deployed his Taser twice, and Lyoya gained control of the Taser, the detective testified. Schurr made “many commands” for him to drop the device and a physical altercation followed with both men on the ground, the detective testified.
The officer was on top of Lyoya’s back — the Black man prone on the ground — when Schurr “lost complete control of the Taser.” Lyoya had “complete control of the Taser” at that point, the detective testified.
“It appears that Patrick was then on his hands and knees. Again, Officer Schurr was on (Lyoya’s) back,” the detective said, according to the transcript. “Officer Schurr pulled his duty firearm from its holster and then fired one round into the back of Patrick’s head, causing his body to go limp.”
Schurr was “justified in his use of force,” his lawyer Mark Dodge argued in a June arraignment. The officer believed Lyoya “obtained full control of (his) Taser” and he was “in danger of serious bodily injury or death,” Schurr’s attorneys said in a June motion for bond.
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CNN’s Peter Nickeas and Ray Sanchez contributed to this report.