The Murder of Patrick Lyoya

Patrick Lyoya. Image credit: Ben Crump via CNN.

On the morning of April 4, Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old Black autoworker got pulled over by cop in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for allegedly having improper vehicle registration. What unfolded was much more than a routine traffic stop. The incident quickly became fatal.

Footage from the police dashcam, body camera and other independent videos paint a picture of how this cold-blooded murder unfolded. After getting pulled over, Lyoya exits the vehicle, asking what he has done wrong. He and the officer, who has yet to be identified, talk for some time. The officer attempts to grab Lyoya, who then tries to run away. The officer immediately catches Lyoya, wrestles him to the ground, and after a period of tussling, tazes Lyoya as Lyoya attempts to protect himself. Soon after, the cop pulls out his gun and shoots Lyoya in the back of the head, ending his life.

Since the killing, Patrick Lyoya’s loved ones, as well as the broader Grand Rapids community, have spoken out to demand justice. The individual who murdered him should absolutely be held accountable. But how can there ever be meaningful justice when someone’s life is stolen? And how can there ever be meaningful justice as long as this continues to happen in our society, again and again? What does it say when Patrick Lyoya, who came to the United States in 2014 fleeing violence in his home country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, ultimately had his life violently taken away from him at the hands of a police officer? For someone with black skin in this society, how can there ever be genuine “sanctuary” or “asylum” from violence when they are prone to be seen as a “threat” and when law enforcement sees a bullseye on their skin? Where can Black people get asylum from the violence of the United States?

Patrick Lyoya is certainly not the first victim of racist brutality at the hands of cops, and he likely won’t be the last. The society we live in is desperately in need of revolutionary changes. We cannot continue to tolerate the brutality of this system.