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Mich. officer should go to trial in fatal shooting of motorist, appeals court rules

Former officer Christopher Schurr had appealed to have murder charges against him dropped, saying that his shooting of the suspect was within department policy

Police-Shooting Michigan

FILE - Ex-Grand Rapids police officer Christopher Schurr appears for the second day of his preliminary examination at the Kent County Courthouse in Grand Rapids on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022. Michigan’s Court of Appeals has ruled that Schurr should go to trial for a murder charge in the 2022 killing of a Black motorist, Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024. (Joel Bissell/The Grand Rapids Press via AP, File)

Joel Bissell/AP

Associated Press

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A former police officer in western Michigan should go to trial for a murder charge in the 2022 killing of a motorist, the state Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

The court said in it’s 2-1 opinion that it agrees there was “at least sufficient evidence presented” at Christopher Schurr’s preliminary examination “to establish probable cause” that his actions as a Grand Rapids police officer “did not satisfy the standards for use of deadly force in self-defense.”

The appeals court began hearing the case in September. A circuit court had earlier decided not to dismiss the charge.

The second-degree murder charge stems from a morning traffic stop that ended with Schurr shooting Patrick Lyoya in the back of the head while on top of him. The fatal shooting was preceded by a short chase and struggle, according to a video of the incident that was released.

The video shows Schurr repeatedly telling Lyoya to take his hands off the officer’s Taser.

“The video evidence showed Lyoya physically resisting defendant’s efforts to subdue him, but the video did not depict Lyoya physically attacking defendant — such as by punching him or striking him with his knee,” the appeals court said in its ruling. “The video evidence permitted an inference that Lyoya had also gotten fatigued and was less able to resist. The evidence further showed that defendant had called for assistance from other officers and that those officers were on their way, though it is not clear that defendant (knew) how long before the officers would arrive.”

Defense attorney Matthew Borgula declined to comment Thursday, saying he still was reading through the opinion.

Schurr’s lawyers had insisted that the appeals court throw out the murder charge, saying the law allows the use of deadly force “to stop a felon from fleeing when the officer reasonably believed a felony had occurred.”

Prosecutors argued for a jury to decide on the charges.

Schurr was fired in June 2022 after being charged with murder.