In what appears to be yet another politically-motivated prosecution of a white police officer who lawfully defended himself from a violent, non-compliant black suspect, Grand Rapids Officer Christopher Schurr has been charged with second-degree murder over the April 4, 2022 shooting death of Patrick Lyoya, according to FOX News.
I previously wrote about this case right here at Legal Insurrection back in April:
If interested, I also did a YouTube live stream earlier today discussing the charging of Officer Schurr:
The charges coming a full two months after the event, and in the absence of any additional evidence having been developed in the interim, has all the indicia of a show trial pursued for purposes of political gain rather than justice.
Indeed, the reporting of these charges and the background around the shooting by even FOX News, hardly a left-wing media organization, comes across as thoroughly propagandistic, rather than intending to inform.
By recounting the event using half-truths, the news report suggests to the reader that Officer Schurr stood over a fallen and helpless Patrick Lyoya and shot him through the head in a cold-blooded execution:
A Michigan police officer who fatally shot a Black man in the back of the head as he was on the ground during a traffic stop was charged Thursday with murder.
What actually happened in this use-of-force event has been known from the start, thanks to video from Officer Schurr’s body camera and taken by bystanders, and the reality bears little resemblance to that description of an execution of a helpless black suspect by a white officer.
You can view those collected videos here, where they were presented as part of a media conference by Schurr’s department:
Officer Schurr pulled over the vehicle that Lyoya was driving because the license plate did not match the vehicle. This is, of course, a perfectly legitimate reason for a traffic stop.
Then when Officer Schurr asked Lyoya for his driver’s license, Lyoya sought to flee the traffic stop. This is unlawful flight from a lawful detention, and Officer Schurr was fully within his authority to use reasonable force to compel Lyoya’s compliance with the detention.
At that point Officer Schurr went hands on with Lyoya, using bare-hand force and pursuit of Lyoya to enforce the driver’s lawful detention. As Lyoya continued to violently resist, Schurr appropriately escalated his force by drawing his Taser. At that point Lyoya began to fight Schurr for control of the Taser.
Reports vary as to whether the Taser’s projectiles were exhausted in the course of this struggle, but even if the device was not longer able to hurl electrified darts it was still fully capable of being used in “drive” mode to disable by pressing the “muzzle” of the device against the target’s body.
By this point the fight had gone to the ground, with both men scrambling on the grass as they wrestled for control of the Taser. Officer Schurr repeatedly ordered Lyoya to yield control of the device, to stop fighting, and to comply with lawful arrest, and Lyoya continued to violently fight the officer and struggle for control of the Taser.
We normally think of Tasers as “less than lethal” devices, because when used lawfully by police officers the intent is to neutralize suspects into compliance without having to inflict deadly force upon them (e.g., shoot them with a service pistol).
In fact and law, however, whether a particular application of a Taser qualifies as merely non-deadly force or as deadly force depends on the manner of its use. Tasers, when they function as intended, cause substantial disablement of the target. When such disablement is done for the lawful purposes of stopping further violence, such as in self-defense or to compel compliance with lawful arrest, this effect is properly understood to be an application of non-deadly force.
In contrast, when a Taser is used to disable a target for unlawful purposes, the effect and reasonably inferred subsequent unlawful conduct is properly understood to be deadly force—that is, force readily capable of inflicting either death or serious bodily harm.
Indeed, the disablement induced by the Taser alone is sufficient to qualify as serious bodily harm when inflicted in the absence of a lawful purpose. On top of that, it is reasonable to infer that, unlike in cases of self-defense or lawful arrest, when a Taser is used to disable a target that the disablement will be followed by further unlawful force upon the target.
This should hardly need saying, but the disablement of a suspect by a police officer by use of a Taser to compel compliance with lawful arrest is in no way comparable to the use of a Taser by a violent suspect upon a police officer, who once disabled is subject to being killed with his own pistol.
A reasonable analogy would be that of handcuffing. When an officer handcuffs a suspect in the course of making a lawful arrest of that suspect, there is no basis for inferring that the officer intends to inflict any further force upon that suspect. In contrast, when a kidnapper handcuffs his victim, it is reasonable to infer further harm to that victim. The handcuffs are the same, the act of snapping them on wrists is the same, but the intent and purpose is entirely different.
In this instance, Officer Schurr could not simply allow himself to be disabled by the violently resisting Lyoya. The two men were in effect engaged in a gun fight—the gun being that on Schurr’s belt, which his department requires him to carry in precisely such circumstances. A pretty good indication that a suspect is intending to inflict physical violence upon a police officer is when the suspect is already inflicting physical violence upon that officer—as Lyoya was doing here.
Indeed, under the rationale of this murder charge against Officer Schurr, it is hard to understand why officers would carry Tasers at all, knowing that the moment a suspect begins to violently fight them for control of the Taser the officer is supposed to allow themselves to be disabled by the Taser and subject to being killed by that violently resisting suspect.
You should expect our continued coverage of this newest instance of an apparently politically-motivated prosecution of a good police officer, especially if it goes to televised trial.
Attorney Andrew F. Branca
Law of Self Defense LLC