Funeral of Patrick Lyoya brings hundreds to Grand Rapids
‘We can’t bring Patrick back, but we can bring justice in Patrick’s name’
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WILX) - The funeral for Patrick Lyoya brought hundreds of people to Grand Rapids Friday morning.
Lyoya’s death has drawn nationwide attention and drew more than just friends and family members to the funeral service.
Lyoya, 26, had an altercation during an April 4 traffic stop that ended with Lyoya face down on the ground and being shot in the back of the head by a Grand Rapids police officer.
The family’s attorney said they believe video collected and released by police shows was resisting the officer, not fighting him.
Hundreds gathered Friday at the Renaissance Church of God in Christ in support of Lyoya’s family.
“It was wrong,” said Alyssa Mihalik. “And we really need to stand behind people like Patrick and help.”
Mihalik didn’t know Lyoya, but as a member of the Grand Rapids community, she felt it was important to be at the funeral. She was joined by Tim Irish.
“If we all come together and show that this just isn’t what we want to happen, then we re going to be in a better place,” Irish said.
They hope more of the community comes together to ensure a similar incident doesn’t happen again. They said showing up is a part of that goal.
“We just hope that there’s more outreach for this kind of thing not happening in the future,” Irish said.
While they said community support shouldn’t stop there, Irish and Mihalik said the community needs to hold the police accountable.
“There needs to be more people on the ground who are actually able to help and not kill people,” Mihalik said.
The two said they want people to know that Grand Rapids stands with the Lyoya family and that no family should have to experience what they are going through.
Those who knew Lyoya said he was a family man and a man who came to Michigan for a better life for his family. They said he was warm, kind and had a lot of friends. Fikira, who came to Michigan as a refugee from Tanzania, said their friendship was instant.
“I met this young little brother,” Fikira said. “You know, when you come as a refugee, we’re all brothers.”
Lyoya’s casket had the flag of his home country draped over it. He and his family arrived in Michigan as refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2014.
Fikira said his personality is what drew him to Lyoya. He left his siblings back home in Tanzania and Lyoya filled that void.
“He always got a big smile,” Fikira said. “I love you, little brother. Because I left a sister and a brother back home, so I thought he was my brother.”
He said he came to the funeral to support the family and say goodbye to the man he calls his brother.
Lyoya leaves behind five biological siblings and two children.
Among the hundreds mourning was a family member of Breonna Taylor, the Grand Rapids native who was shot and killed by police in Kentucky. The city of Louisville eventually passed Breonna’s Law, which abolished no-knock warrants.
Taylor’s cousin, Tawanna Gordon, said the video of Lyoya’s death hit close to home for her.
“It just reminded us all over again that we’re not one step closer to changing what’s going on in the world as far as police brutality and these senseless shootings,” Gordon said.
Immigrants and refugees from across the globe were in Grand Rapids to express their condolences at the funeral. Many immigrants that spoke with News 10 said they came to Michigan for the same reason Lyoya did.
Simon Good said he came to the funeral to pay his respects. He came to the United States from South Sudan for the security of U.S. law, for freedom and justice -- but incidents like Lyoya’s death make him worry.
“The law is supposed to be you’re presumed innocent until proven guilty,” Good said. “But if there’s justice, everybody should be perceived the same.”
He said he has concerns for his own family due to what happened to Lyoya.
“It’s concerning to me what keeps happening in our city, in our country, in our nation,” Good said.
He’s not alone. Popo Nkulu is from the Democratic Republic of Congo -- the same country Lyoya and his family is from. Nkulu said he was shocked when he learned about Lyoya’s death.
“We are peaceful people,” Nkulu said. “We come here to work hard to look for a better life.”
He said the events leading up to the shooting do not represent the justice system they came to the United States for and that traffic stops shouldn’t turn fatal.
“He’s the police. He’s the judge. He’s the killer,” Nkulu said. “No. You don’t kill someone because he resists.”
The funeral took place the day after hundreds marched in Lansing to demand justice for Lyoya.
Michigan State Police are investigating the fatal shooting. They will send a report to the Kent County prosecutor, who will decide if the Grand Rapids police officer gets charged, who is on administrative leave. The police chief said he will not release the name of the officer unless he is charged.
“Every time a young Black man or woman is arrested in this town, you put their name all over the news. Every time we’re suspected of something, you put our name out there,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton. “How dare you hold the name of a man that killed this man. We want his name.”
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said her office will take on the investigation if it’s offered.
“It’s not a matter of not trusting them to do the right thing, it’s the fact that I think it creates friction in those relationships that they need to have and the optics are not good oftentimes,” Nessel said.
The Michigan State Police released a statement Friday morning regarding the investigation. It can be read below.
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