A white Michigan cop pleaded not guilty Friday to a murder charge for shooting a black motorist in the back of the head during a traffic stop that turned violent.
Grand Rapids Police Officer Christopher Schurr was “justified in his use of force” when he fatally shot 26-year-old Patrick Lyoya during a roadside struggle on April 4, his attorney said at the cop’s arraignment.
Schurr appeared virtually, masked and donning his orange prison garb, as supporters of both sides clashed at the Grand Rapids courthouse, reports said.
“The defense submits that Officer Schurr, on this charge, was justified in his use of force in this episode and is not guilty in this crime,” said Mark Dodge, an attorney for the cop, video of the court appearance showed.
Schurr had reportedly pulled over Lyoya and suspected him of driving a stolen car because its license plate didn’t match the vehicle. In video of the confrontation, Lyoya is seen getting out of the car before Schurr tells him to get back in.
Lyoya tries to walk away before Schurr catches up to him and a struggle ensues. The cop reportedly tried to draw a Taser and fired it twice but didn’t connect with the motorist. As he is on top of Schurr, he then pulls out his pistol and fatally shoots Lyoya with a single shot, video shows.
The death is the latest case of a police-involved shooting of a black man that has gained national attention, and the volatile issue caused for heated exchanges at Schurr’s arraignment.
An “overflow” crowd at the courthouse included about 60 people inside and others gathered in the halls, with supporters of the cop wearing “#standwithschurr” T-shirts, according to CNN. Others wore “Back the Blue” shirts, including Schurr’s father, who was seated in the first row of the courtroom, WOOD-TV reported.
In the halls, activists and supporters of Lyoya chanted “Justice for Patrick” and exchanged words with the cops’ supporters.
“You might be next. Quit your jobs, you might be next,” one activist told Schurr’s supporters, according to WOOD-TV. “If you love him, tell him to quit his job. He might be next. If you care about these police officers, tell them all to quit their job — they might be next.”
Schurr, who is facing life behind bars, was released Friday on $100,000 bond and ordered not to carry a gun and drink alcohol as part of his release, the station said. He’s due back in court for a probable cause hearing June 21.