US mourners call for justice at funeral for Patrick Lyoya

Rights advocates demand name of police officer who shot Lyoya, 26, in the back of the head after Michigan traffic stop.

Reverend Al Sharpton has demanded that authorities in the United States publicly identify the Michigan police officer who killed Patrick Lyoya, a native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo who was fatally shot in the back of the head this month.

“We want his name!” Sharpton said on Friday, as he spoke at Lyoya’s funeral.

He said 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!”

Mourners, many of whom were wearing T-shirts or sweatshirts bearing Lyoya’s picture and the words “Justice for Patrick”, stood in applause.

Sharpton delivered the eulogy at the request of family members. Prominent civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, who is representing the family, was also set to speak at Renaissance Church of God in Christ in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

A programme of the service, printed in English and Swahili, said family members and friends planned to share reflections.

Lyoya’s body lay in a white, open casket inside the church before the service began. Once the funeral started, the casket was closed and the Congolese flag was draped over it.

Below the casket, a sign bearing an image of the American flag and a photo of Lyoya said, “It’s our right to live,” in both English and Swahili.

Lyoya’s mother, Dorcas, sobbed as mourners filed in to pay their respects, and tears ran down her cheek as live music played and a choir sang.

Peter and Dorcas Lyoya, the parents of Patrick Lyoya, attended a rally before the funeral [Michael A McCoy/Reuters]

US Representative Brenda Lawrence, Michigan’s only Black member of Congress, was among those who filled the 1,000-seat church to capacity.

Local elected officials Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss and state Senator Winnie Brinks also were among those in attendance.

On his way inside, Crump said, “We’re here to support the family again through this very difficult time. Nobody expects their child to be taken from them before they are buried.

“But to have them taken by the person who’s supposed to protect and serve them is a different kind of trauma.”

Lyoya was face down on the ground when he was fatally shot on April 4 in Grand Rapids, about 240km (150 miles) northwest of Detroit.

The officer, whose name has not been released, was on top of him and can be heard on video demanding that Lyoya take his hand off his Taser.

Earlier, the officer is heard saying that the licence plate did not match the car Lyoya had been driving. Lyoya, a 26-year-old father of two, declined to get back into the vehicle as ordered, and a short foot chase ensued before the deadly struggle.

Autopsy results released by a lawyer for Lyoya's family showed he died from being shot in the back of the head.
Authorities released police body camera footage of the fatal shooting earlier this month [Grand Rapids Police Department]

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