An independent autopsy has determined that unarmed Black man Patrick Lyoya died from a single gunshot wound to the back of the head during a deadly altercation with a white police officer.
Lyoya, a 26-year-old who had moved to the US with his family from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2014, was killed by an unidentified officer after being pulled over for a traffic stop in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on 4 April.
His death has been branded an “execution” by the Black man’s grieving family with mounting calls for the arrest of the officer, following the release of a graphic video of his death last week.
Attorneys representing Lyoya’s family released the findings of an independent autopsy carried out by forensic pathologist Dr. Wener Spitz in a press conference on Tuesday morning.
The autopsy found that Lyoya’s death was caused by a single bullet entering the back of his skull near the midline, then traveling up and to the right side of his skull and lodging near his right temporal bone.
Ben Crump, the prominent civil rights attorney who is representing Lyoya’s family, said at the press conference that the autopsy confirmed what was seen in the video footage.
“This independent autopsy report confirms what we all witnessed in the horrifying video footage,” he said.
“Unarmed Patrick Lyoya was conscious until the bullet entered his head, instantly ending what could have been a long and fruitful life.”
Based on the current health of Lyoya, Dr Spitz concluded that the 26-year-old would have lived to be around 82.
The findings come ahead of the official autopsy report from the Kent County medical examiner, with officials saying last week that they would wait until they receive the results of toxicology and additional tissue tests and until the investigation is completed into Lyoya’s death before releasing the findings.
On Wednesday, the Grand Rapids Police Department released several videos of the 4 April encounter showing Lyoya being pulled over in his car by the officer before a struggle breaks out and the officer pins Lyoya to the ground and deploys his taser.
The incident then ends with the officer firing one fatal shot in the back of the Black man’s head.
The roughly two-and-a-half minute long footage includes clips from four different videos: the officer’s police cruiser dashboard camera, the officer’s body-worn camera, surveillance footage from a nearby home, and phone video captured by a person riding in a car with Lyoya.
It begins with the officer pulling Lyoya over for a traffic stop at around 8am for allegedly driving with an improper license plate.
When he pulls over, the Black man exits the vehicle.
“Stay in the car! Dude, I’m stopping you,” the officer says.
Patrick Lyoya runs from the officer before a struggle ensues
Bodycam footage shows Lyoya appearing visibly confused.
The officer asks for his driver’s license and asks if he speaks English to which Lyoya replies “yes” and asks what he has done wrong.
He then turns to the door and speaks briefly to the passenger inside, before closing the driver’s side door and taking a few slow steps towards the front of the car.
At that moment, the officer starts saying “no, no, no, stop” and “put your hands behind your head” and grabs Lyoya by the arms.
A struggle then breaks out with the Black man pushing the officer away and running to the sidewalk.
The officer tackles him to the ground and the two men continue to struggle on a lawn, with the officer heard telling Lyoya to “stop resisting”.
During the struggle, the officer fires his taser twice at Lyoya who then appears to grab the device from him.
The bodycam cuts off at that point but cellphone video shot by the passenger in the car captures what happens next.
The officer is seen on top of Lyoya, pinning him face down on the ground while shouting “drop the taser” at the Black man.
The officer is seen on top of Patrick Lyoya and firing one shot into his head
Seconds later, the officer then pulls out his firearm and shoots Lyoya in the head at close range. Lyoya’s body goes limp.
The struggle lasted around 90 seconds. No weapons besides the officer’s gun and taser were found at the scene.
Police Chief Eric Winstrom said that the officer shot the Black man once in the head while his face was toward the ground.
It is not clear why the bodycam stopped working during the struggle.
The police chief said at a press conference on Wednesday that the department was releasing the footage in the interest of transparency.
He described the incident as “a tragedy” and said watching the footage was “a progression of sadness for me”.
The police have refused to name the officer, saying only that he had been on the force for seven years and had been placed on paid leave.
Michigan State Police is leading the criminal investigation into the shooting with part of the probe exploring whether Lyoya understood the orders from the officer.
The death of Lyoya is the latest in a long line of police killings of Black people in America, coming almost two years on from the murder of George Floyd which sent shockwaves across the globe and sparked protests demanding an end to police brutality and systemic racism.
This story is breaking. More to follow