Patrick Lyoya was shot in back of head by Michigan officer, medical report finds

Civil rights lawyer says postmortem examination is evidence that shooting was an ‘execution’

A black man who was fatally shot by a Michigan police officer this month was shot in the back of the head, an independent post-mortem examination has found.

Forensic pathologist Werner Spitz and lawyers for Lyoya’s family said it was found the 26-year-old was shot once and that the police officer held the gun to the back of his head.

“That is now scientific evidence of this tragic killing which his family believes was an execution,” civil rights lawyer Ben Crump said during a news conference in Detroit.

Mr Spitz found no sign of a struggle such as scratches or bruises on Lyoya’s body. He did not know the calibre of the round that was fired, but said it was a “powerful bullet” that killed the man.

Activists say Lyoya’s death is the latest incident of police using fatal force against young black men. Grand Rapids police have faced criticism over excessive police force for years.

His family is seeking charges against the officer who fatally shot the Congolese refugee, and they also want him to be publicly named.

Grand Rapids police officials have placed the unidentified officer on administrative leave and asked Michigan State Police to investigate the shooting.

Kent County Chief Medical Examiner Stephen Cohle said in a statement that he examined Lyoya’s body on the day of the incident and prepared a death certificate stating the cause and manner of death.

He also said toxicology and tissue results were pending and may take 60 days to be completed, and that the full autopsy report will not be made public until the State Police concludes its investigation.

“We have to investigate whether this was a classic ‘driving while black’ case,” Mr Crump said, noting that the officer was travelling in the opposite direction to Lyoya before the stop.

Videos released by Grand Rapids police last week showed Lyoya ask, “What did I do?” when the officer demanded his driving licence. A short foot chase then ensued and the two men at one point grappled over the officer’s Taser before Lyoya was shot.

Lyoya’s funeral is planned for Friday in Grand Rapids. The Rev Al Sharpton is scheduled to deliver the eulogy.

Reuters contributed to this report

Updated: April 19, 2022, 7:12 PM
EDITOR'S PICKS