When Peter and Dorcas Lyoya moved their family to the United States eight years ago to escape violence in their homeland of the Democratic Republic of Congo, they believed they had found “a safe land,” Dorcas Lyoya said.
That notion was shattered earlier this month, when their oldest child, Patrick Lyoya, was fatally shot by a Grand Rapids, Michigan police officer during a traffic stop.
Dorcas Lyoya said on Thursday through a language interpreter: “I am surprised and surprised that my son was killed with a bullet here. In their first comments since the video of the deadly encounter went public, Lyoyas called for “justice for Patrick” and demanded that the officer who shot him be held accountable.
They also said they were shocked when their son, who died in his hometown, was adopted.
Peter Lyoya said: “I do not believe in this country there is genocide. “I didn’t know that in America there could be an execution style of killing someone with a gun and being a police officer.”
Lyoya, 26, was killed on the morning of April 4 after he was towed by an officer who told him his license plate did not match the vehicle he was driving. Four videos of the encounter, released Wednesday, show Lyoya and the officer struggling before Lyoya is shot. Lyoya, a Black man, was face down on the ground when he was fatally shot in the back of the head, one of the videos showed.
Standing on the podium at the Revival Church of God in Christ, where they had requested the release of the video five days earlier, Lyoyas said they consider their son another head of the house.
“I thought one day Patrick would take my place, and seeing my son being killed like an animal by this police officer, and watching the video they showed, I felt lifeless. I feel my heart breaking,” said Peter Lyoya through a language interpreter.
Lyoya’s family immigrated to the US in 2014 from the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. Patrick Lyoya is the eldest in a family of six children. He is also a father of two young daughters.
Peter Lyoya describes his son as a “small kid”, never “brutal” and dislikes fighting.
In an interview with NBC News, Dorcas Lyoya said she misses a lot about her son, but mostly his “voice” and “presence.”
She recalls the pain mothers endure during childbirth and says “that pain has increased now” and is “very deep” right now.
She said at the church: “I thought it was my son who would bury me, but I was surprised that I was the one to bury him. “No one can replace your first child. No one can replace Patrick”.
Dorcas Lyoya has not seen the videos released by the Grand Rapids Police Department on Wednesday, saying she is afraid to watch them because she knows they are “horrific”.
Providing a supporting role at the church is Tamika Palmer, the mother of Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot during a botched police raid in 2020, when several officers attempted to enforce a break-in ban into her apartment.
Taylor, like Lyoya, is 26 years old.
“I want to apologize [to the Lyoyas] because we haven’t done enough to make sure Patrick is safe,” Palmer said. “I know what it feels like to lose your 26-year-old by people who were supposed to protect us.”
The family is also surrounded by their legal team, led by civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who has said he plans to file a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging excessive use of force to cause harm. Deadly. He also called for immediate identification of the police officer and criminal prosecution of the police officer.
Crump said the video made it clear that the officer had some opportunity to “de-escalate” but he chose to use violence against an unarmed man.
The officer, who is white, was stripped of his police status while an investigation was underway. His identity has not been made public.
Lyoya’s case is being investigated by the Michigan State Police, which will forward the results of the investigation to the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office, which will ultimately determine whether criminal charges should be filed.
Lyoya’s brother, Thomas Lyoya, said he often goes to Grand Rapids just to visit his brother. Lyoyas is headquartered in Lansing, Michigan, about 70 miles east. But he had no reason to visit anymore, which he said was “devastating.”
“We all watched the video. It was the most horrifying thing I’ve ever seen. I was just so sad to see that,” he said. “But I know we have people supporting us and helping us through this. We will get justice for Patrick.”