Michigan appeals court stands by ruling that ex-officer should be tried for murder

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Court of Appeals denied a request Thursday to reconsider its earlier opinion stating that a former Grand Rapids police officer should stand trial for murder in the 2022 killing of a Black motorist.

The court ruled 2-1 on Jan. 25 that it agreed there was “at least sufficient evidence presented” at Christopher Schurr’s preliminary examination “to establish probable cause” that his actions as a Grand Rapids police officer “did not satisfy the standards for use of deadly force in self-defense.”

The second-degree murder charge stems from a morning traffic stop that ended with Schurr shooting Patrick Lyoya, a Congolese immigrant, in the back of the head while on top of him following an April 4, 2022, traffic stop. The fatal shooting was preceded by a short chase and struggle, according to a video of the incident that was released.

A circuit court earlier had decided not to dismiss the charge.

The video shows Schurr, who is white, repeatedly telling Lyoya to take his hands off the officer’s Taser.

“The video evidence showed Lyoya physically resisting defendant’s efforts to subdue him, but the video did not depict Lyoya physically attacking defendant — such as by punching him or striking him with his knee,” the appeals court said in its ruling. “The video evidence permitted an inference that Lyoya had also gotten fatigued and was less able to resist. The evidence further showed that defendant had called for assistance from other officers and that those officers were on their way, though it is not clear that defendant (knew) how long before the officers would arrive.”

A phone message and an email seeking comment on the court’s ruling Thursday were left for Schurr’s attorney, Matthew Borgula.

Schurr’s defense has insisted that the appeals court throw out the murder charge, saying the law allows the use of deadly force “to stop a felon from fleeing when the officer reasonably believed a felony had occurred.”

Prosecutors argued for a jury to decide on the charges.

Schurr was fired in June 2022 after being charged with murder.