DETROIT (CBS DETROIT) –The attorneys representing the family of a Black man shot and killed by a Grand Rapids police officer during a traffic stop in April say race played a role in the shooting.
"The police see a Black driver–without anything else–they then make a U-turn," civil rights attorney Ben Crump said during a news conference Wednesday.
It's been eight months since former Grand Rapids police officer Christopher Schurr shot 26-year-old Patrick Lyoya in the back of the head during a traffic stop.
"The officer initiated physical contact by grabbing him with two hands from behind, spinning them around, and trying to handcuff him for a license plate," attorney Ven Johnson said.
In a civil lawsuit filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court Western District of Michigan, attorneys Johnson and Crump claim Schurr broke federal law using excessive force and acted in gross negligence under Michigan State Law.
"A police officer is absolutely required to use as little force as possible," Johnson said.
They also believe the City of Grand Rapids is responsible for creating an atmosphere that influenced Schurr to use excessive force.
Johnson says at least 79 citizens have filed complaints against GRPD officers over five years.
"They're still in denial. They've done nothing for reform," Kent County Commissioner Robert Womack said.
The Michigan Department of Civil Rights began to look into those complaints in 2019, including one in 2017, where several officers aimed their weapons at five unarmed Black boys walking home.
That same year, an officer handcuffed an 11-year-old Black girl at gunpoint. Then an officer punched a black driver in the face after a traffic stop last year.
In Lyoya's case, Schurr is charged with second-degree murder and can face life in prison if convicted.
"The pain is so deep. The bitterness is so deep to the point that I can even lose my life (sic) every time when I think about my son," Israel Siku, family pastor and interpreter for Lyoya's father, Peter, said.
A City of Grand Rapids spokesperson told CBS Detroit they haven't seen a copy of the $100 million lawsuit but will 'respond appropriately in court.'
"You all got to change these policies so we won't have any more foot pursuits with cameras being turned off. We won't have driving while Black detentions every day, and we won't have 79 citizens complaining, and nobody does nothing about it," Crump said.
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