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‘One life lost is far too many:’ 70 pastors calling for justice for Patrick Lyoya

Posted at 7:28 PM, Jun 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-01 23:44:47-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — On Monday morning April 4, Grand Rapids police officer Christopher Schurr shot Patrick Lyoya to death during a traffic stop near the intersection of Nelson and Griggs.

Since then, Michigan State Police and subsequently Kent County prosecutor Chris Becker have been investigating his death.

Wednesday, 70 pastors said they’re tired of waiting for the results of the investigation. They signed a letter calling for police accountability now.

“To everything there is a time and a season. This is a time for anger,” said Rev. Christy Lipscomb at the podium of Grace Church. “We ministers of Christian churches in Grand Rapids call for accountability for the killing of Patrick Lyoya. Black residents of Grand Rapids and people of color in this community need to feel safe. To that end, actions must be taken.”

Lipscomb is a pastor and co-founder of City Life Church. She read the letter at Grace, alongside over a dozen pastors who signed it as well. It outlines their demands for they want officials to take to achieve change.

The first demand, they said, is that Becker recuse himself from the investigation.

“We’re talking 58 days from the time in which Patrick’s life was taken,” said Dr. Willie Gholston III of First Community AME Church. “Now it’s in the prosecutor’s hands and he’s the one that is actually delaying what is transpiring.”

The group said they’ve asked him on several occasions to recuse himself. They’re also asking that an outside prosecutor take the investigation or Attorney General Dana Nessel.

The letter, which the association said is a joint multicultural effort for change, also demands:

  • A federal investigation conducted into the deadly shooting and into the ‘history and culture’ of GRPD
  • For the community to have a seat at the table during police union contract talks
  • Proper funding and resources for the Civilian Appeal Board and the Office of Oversight and Public Accountability so that change is achieved
  • The City and GRPD respect people’s constitutional right to protest

Since the fatal shootings, more than a dozen protests and demonstrations have occurred throughout the state.

“I’ve got a 19-year-old. He’s not even driving right now,” said Pastor Jathan Austin of Bethel Empowerment Church. “I don’t even want him to drive right now ‘cause I don’t know what will happen to him when he leaves my house.”

The pastors said their call for change doesn’t just stem from the fatal shooting of Lyoya. It also stems from other incidents like Jilmar Ramos-Gomez in 2019, the marine veteran who was given over to ICE officials despite having multiple forms of identification showing that he was U.S. citizen, and the 2017 incident of the five Black boys who were stopped by GRPD and held at gunpoint after walking home from the KROC Center.

“What we’re calling for is systemic change so that our communities are safer and that life is valued at a deeper level,” said Rev. Adam Lipscomb of City Life Church. 

Since the shooting happened, the pastors said that they’ve repeatedly met with city commissioners, Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, and Police Chief Eric Winstrom about police accountability and gun reform.

This Sunday, June 5 is known as Pentecost Sunday. They're asking that all churches in the area use it as a call to action for Patrick Lyoya.

They said their efforts to see change will not end until justice for Patrick and others is achieved.

“This is about life and death,” said Pastor Peter TeWinkle of Oakdale Park Church. “We are adamantly for life for every human being in the limits of this city. And, so what we otherwise might be numb to as something that we’re told to accept, we’re here to say one life lost is far too many.”

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