The Michigan police officer who killed Patrick Lyoya with a shot to the head has been with the Grand Rapids department for seven years, after starring as a pole vaulter at a small college and marrying his longtime girlfriend during a church mission trip to Africa.
Christopher Schurr’s name had been circulating since his face was seen in videos of the April 4 confrontation with Lyoya, a Black man. But his identity wasn’t publicly acknowledged until Monday when the police department changed course and released it, three days after passionate demands at the funeral of the 26-year-old native of Congo.
Chief Eric Winstrom said he was acting “in the interest of transparency, to reduce ongoing speculation, and to avoid any further confusion.”
In the aftermath of the shooting and the release of video, Winstrom said he would withhold the officer’s name unless he was charged with a crime. It was described as a long-standing practice that applied to the public as well as city employees.
The Associated Press left a phone message seeking comment from Schurr, who remains off the job while state police investigate the shooting.
Lyoya’s family and Black leaders, including Rev. Al Sharpton, repeatedly called for transparency and release of the name.
“We want his name!” Sharpton shouted at Lyoya’s funeral, saying authorities cannot set a precedent of withholding the names of officers who kill people unless the officer 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,” Sharpton said. “How dare you hold the name of a man that killed this man? We want his name!”
Lyoya, who was unarmed, was face down on the ground when he was shot. Schurr was on top of him and can be heard on video demanding that he take his hand off the officer’s Taser.
A forensic pathologist who conducted an autopsy at the family’s request said the gun was pressed to Lyoya’s head when he was shot.
Ven Johnson, an attorney for the family, said it’s important that Lyoya’s parents now know Schurr’s name, though he scoffed at the police chief’s use of “transparency.”
“It’s not transparent when you hide something for three weeks. It’s quite the opposite,” Johnson said. “It’s cops taking care of the cops instead of treating it like a normal investigation.”
After the funeral, Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington acknowledged the demand for the officer’s name and said he would discuss the matter with Winstrom and city employment officials.
“Police reform requires evaluating many long-standing practices to ensure our actions are consistent with the best interests of the community and the individuals involved,” Washington said last week.
Schurr, 31, grew up in Byron Center, just south of Grand Rapids, and joined the police in 2015 after attending Siena Heights University in Adrian, Mich., where he studied accounting and was a star pole vaulter.
He was active in his church when he was younger, taking missionary trips for Corinth Reformed Church in Byron Center, according to a 2014 story in Vaulter Magazine, a publication dedicated to the sport.
Schurr said he was getting married that year, and couldn’t afford to have a wedding celebration and take a separate trip to Kisi, Kenya, to build homes, so he decided to get married there.
“We’re going to do a wedding their style,” Schurr told the magazine. “I have an African outfit already and my fiancee will pick out some fabric and she’ll make a Kenyan-style dress.”
A Twitter account with his name that appears to belong to the officer follows a few national track and field athletes, including a pole vaulter. There are no tweets associated with the account. A Facebook page with Schurr’s name appears to have been taken down.