Michigan agency calls for federal bias investigation into Grand Rapids Police Department
The Michigan Civil Rights Department has called for an investigation into the practices of the Grand Rapids Police Department, Grand Rapids U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge confirmed Tuesday.
Birge, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, said in a statement that the department had asked his department to initiate a “pattern or practice investigation” into possible discrimination by the police department. The Michigan Civil Rights Department called for the investigation ahead of the April 4 shooting death of 26-year-old Patrick Lyoya by an unnamed Grand Rapids police officer.
“Consistent with standard practice, the department considers all information provided by state agencies, including the MDCR, as well as any additional information, in determining whether to initiate an investigation into the patterns or practical,” Birge said.
The development came the same day lawyers for Patrick Lyoya’s family said the 26-year-old’s death appeared to be a “classic” case of Lyoya being targeted for “driving in black”. Lyoya was introduced by the Grand Rapids police officer who ultimately shot him in the back of the neck, family attorney Benjamin Crump said at a news conference in Detroit to discuss the results of a independent autopsy of Lyoya.
Crump said the US Department of Justice announced it would review Lyoya’s death.
Grand Rapids Police Department spokeswoman Jennifer Kalczuk said it would be “inappropriate” to speak about the press conference or “any aspect of the case while the official police investigation of Michigan State is still ongoing.”
The Michigan Civil Rights Department met with residents of Grand Rapids in 2019 in two “listening sessions,” department spokeswoman Vicki Levengood said Tuesday. There are 29 active complaints of discrimination against the Grand Rapids Police Department that are being investigated by the State Department, Levengood said.
The complaints led the MDCR “to this concern about a possible pattern and practice of discrimination by the Grand Rapids Police Department,” Levengoodt said.
“We met this week with Attorney General Nessel and members of her team to discuss a potential collaborative investigation into whether the Grand Rapids Police Department engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination and disparate treatment.
The attorney general’s office “has been meeting with the Civil Rights Department since their communication last week regarding their ongoing investigation into the interviews with the Grand Rapids Police Department,” Nessel spokeswoman Lynsey Mukomel said.
“The Attorney General is committed to putting all the resources of his office behind this effort,” Mukomel continued.
The development came the same day Ben Crump, an attorney for Patrick Lyoya’s family, said Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Monday promised Lyoya’s family “the fullest investigation possible”.
Crump, who noted he was not at the meeting between Whitmer and Lyoya’s family, said Whitmer would do everything in his power to ensure the investigation was thorough.
Lyoya was shot by a Grand Rapids police officer on April 4 after a traffic stop. The officer, who has not been named by the Grand Rapids Police Department, asked for Lyoya’s driver’s license, and Lyoya ended up fleeing the car and a foot chase ensued. In video footage, the officer and Lyoya can be seen struggling with the officer’s stun gun.
The officer ended up shooting Lyoya in the back of the head with his gun. An independent autopsy conducted by medical examiner Dr Werner Spitz and shared on Tuesday confirmed that this was how Lyoya died.