Michigan police sued by family of slain African refugee Patrick Lyoya

By Tyler Clifford

(Reuters) - The family of an African refugee who was shot and killed during a traffic stop in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has filed a civil lawsuit against the city and a former police officer charged with murdering him.

The suit was filed on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in Western Michigan, according to online records, on behalf of the family of Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Lyoya was fatally shot in the back of the head in April by former officer Christopher Schurr, 31, during an altercation that was caught on cell phone video and later released to the public. In June, Schurr pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder.

The Lyoya family is represented by attorneys Ben Crump and Ven Johnson, who say there is "overwhelming evidence" proving "racial profiling and excessive force took place during the traffic stop, physical altercation and eventual killing of Lyoya," according to a news release. It did not say how much the family is seeking in damages.

The attorneys will detail the lawsuit against Schurr and Grand Rapids, a city of less than 200,000 residents in western Michigan, at a news conference later on Wednesday.

Activists have condemned the shooting as another example of unjustified deadly force by police against young Black men.

A forensic pathologist who performed an independent autopsy on Lyoya concluded that the officer held his gun to the back of Lyoya's head and fired once.

Crump, renowned for representing the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin and others in high-profile cases of Black people whose killings have sparked outrage about race relations in America, previously said the autopsy supported the view that Lyoya was the victim of "an execution."

Videos of the incident, which were made public in April, show Lyoya stepping out of the car on a rainy street, seemingly confused and asking "What did I do?" as the policeman repeatedly asks for a driver's license and orders him to get back inside the vehicle.

Lyoya appeared to be complying, but then closed the driver's side door and attempted to walk away, resisting the officer's attempts to handcuff him.

Following a short chase on foot, the two men grappled on a lawn, at one point appearing to struggle over the officer's stun gun. The two had fallen to the ground when the officer drew his firearm and fired one shot in the back of his head, video footage shows.

The attempted arrest unfolded after the officer stopped Lyoya over suspicions involving his license plate.

(Reporting by Tyler Clifford in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)