Expert: Gun pressed to Patrick Lyoya’s head when cop fired

Apr 18, 2022, 8:42 AM | Updated: Apr 19, 2022, 12:56 pm
Forensic pathologist Dr. Werner Spitz uses a chart to demonstrate the direction of the bullet that ...

Forensic pathologist Dr. Werner Spitz uses a chart to demonstrate the direction of the bullet that killed Patrick Lyoya during a press conference at the Westin hotel in Detroit, Tuesday, April 19, 2022. Lyoya died of a gunshot wound to the back of head after a confrontation with a Grand Rapids, Mich., police officer during an April 4 traffic stop according to Dr. Spitz. (David Guralnick/Detroit News via AP)

(David Guralnick/Detroit News via AP)

DETROIT (AP) — A Michigan police officer who killed Patrick Lyoya after a traffic stop pressed the gun against his head when firing the fatal shot, an expert who performed an independent autopsy for the Black man’s family said Tuesday.

Dr. Werner Spitz confirmed what was seen last week on video: Lyoya was shot in the back of the head while facedown on the ground during a vigorous struggle with a white Grand Rapids officer on April 4.

Spitz appeared at a news conference with lawyers for Lyoya’s family, who said they believe video collected and released by police shows that the 26-year-old refugee from Congo was resisting the officer, not fighting him.

“You never see a fist, you never see a knife, no baseball bat, no gun, no nothin’,” Ven Johnson said. “This was not a deadly force scenario. Never gave a warning: ‘Halt or I’m going to shoot you’ or other words that we can all imagine.”

Spitz said he believes the gun was pressed against Lyoya’s head when the officer fired, based on the condition of a bone in the head.

“There’s no question what killed this young man. … It was a powerful bullet,” said Spitz, holding a skull to show where the bullet entered the head.

Spitz performed the autopsy last weekend at a funeral home. The 95-year-old forensic pathologist participated in the assassination investigations of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., among other high-profile cases.

“We can confirm that Patrick Lyoya was shot in the back of his head,” attorney Ben Crump said. “That is now scientific evidence of this tragic killing and what his family believes was an execution.”

The official autopsy report is part of the state police investigation and hasn’t been released to the public.

Lyoya’s death has outraged his family as well as many people who have watched video of the confrontation with an officer.

Crump, who has secured multimillion-dollar settlements for families of other Black men killed by police, said Lyoya could have lived until his early 80s — a “long and fruitful life.”

A lawsuit hasn’t been filed, though Johnson signaled that one was in the works.

Lyoya, who wasn’t armed, was killed after a traffic stop in Grand Rapids in western Michigan. The officer was on top of him and can be heard on video demanding that he take his hand off a police Taser.

Earlier, the officer, is heard saying that the license plate didn’t match the car. Lyoya declined to get back into the vehicle as ordered, and a short foot chase ensued.

Crump said it appeared to be a case of racial profiling — “driving while Black.” Video released by the Grand Rapids Police Department shows the officer’s patrol car backing out of a driveway in a residential neighborhood to follow the car for a few blocks. In Michigan, license plates aren’t on the front of vehicles.

Grand Rapids police spokeswoman Jennifer Kalczuk declined to comment.

Johnson repeated his call for police to publicly release the officer’s name, though he indicated that he knows the identity. Police Chief Eric Winstrom said he won’t release the name unless charges are filed.

“If our client shot this officer in the back of the head, you would know his name the same day,” Johnson said.

State police will give their findings to Kent County prosecutor Chris Becker for consideration of any charges. He has told the public to not expect a quick decision.

Lyoya’s funeral is planned for Friday at Renaissance Church of God in Christ in Grand Rapids. The Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network said it will help cover the cost. He will deliver a eulogy.


Find the AP’s full coverage of the fatal police shooting of Patrick Lyoya:

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - A Seattle police officer walks past tents used by people experiencing homelessness, March 11...
Associated Press

Seattle, feds seek to end most oversight of city’s police

  SEATTLE (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department and Seattle officials asked a judge Tuesday to end most federal oversight of the city’s police department, saying its sustained, decade-long reform efforts are a model for other cities whose law enforcement agencies face federal civil rights investigations. Seattle has overhauled virtually all aspects of its police […]
24 hours ago
Associated Press

Washington moves to end child sex abuse lawsuit time limits

People who were sexually abused as children in Washington state may soon be able to bring lawsuits against the state, schools or other institutions for failing to stop the abuse, no matter when it happened.
24 hours ago
Three children and three adults were killed in a shooting at a private Christian grade school in Na...
Associated Press

Nashville shooter who killed 6 drew maps, surveilled school

Three children were killed in a shooting at a private Christian grade school in Nashville on Monday, hospital officials said.
2 days ago
(Photo from KIRO 7)...
Associated Press

Police: passenger pulled jet’s emergency slide before LAX to SEA flight

A passenger on a Delta Air Lines flight out of Los Angeles International Airport was detained for triggering the plane’s emergency slide prior to takeoff, authorities said.
2 days ago
Law enforcement officials work at the scene along Wooding Road on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, east o...
Associated Press

Why murder defendant was free before killings in Washington

Kirkland Warren was out on bail pending a long-delayed murder trial in Arkansas. But when he was arrested in Washington, he posted bond and was released.
2 days ago
Associated Press

Much of drought-plagued West Coast faces salmon fishing ban

The surreal and desperate scramble boosted the survival rate of the hatchery-raised fish, but still it was not enough to reverse the declining stocks in the face of added challenges.
5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.
SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!
safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Expert: Gun pressed to Patrick Lyoya’s head when cop fired