Legal and Criminal Justice Expert speaks to Media on Police Officer Shooting
Following the April 4 shooting death of 26-year-old Patrick Lyoya by a Grand Rapids police officer, many have expressed frustration over the use of deadly force, questioning police policy on de-escalation, as well as frustration over length of time to conduct and release information from the investigation.
WMU-Cooley Criminal Law Professor Lewis Langham, who previously served 25 years with the Michigan State Police, spoke with national and local media, sharing his perspective on the latest developments in the incident.
PROFESSOR LEWIS LANGHAM SPEAKS TO MEDIA
Following the release of video footage of the incident during a Grand Rapids Police Department press conference, Maria Serrano with WWMT TV asked Langham whether or not the officer was “reasonably justifiably” in the use of deadly force.
Langham explained that for a police officer to shoot his firearm, the officer must believe the suspect poses a threat of great bodily harm or death. Even with the release of video, the question remains what the office was thinking at that exact moment.
The key element that’s missing is why he pulled the trigger, said Langham, noting that the state police investigation would reveal what was going through the officer’s mind. Following the investigation, prosecutors would then need to determine if his actions were justified.
In an interview with Justin Bachman with WZZM TV, Langham states, “There is only one potentially excessive use of force by the officer who killed Patrick Lyoya.”
Aside from the moment the officer fired his gun, he believes the officer’s actions are compliant with police policy and protocol “Up until that point, there was nothing the police officer appeared to have done wrong,” said Langham.
He underscored the need to look at the totality of the circumstances starting at the very beginning, which will determine if there is legal liability on the part of the officer.
On April 14 Langham spoke with Adriana Diaz of CBS Morning News regarding the renewed attention to police de-escalation policies and tactics. The Grand Rapids Police Escalation and De-Escalation Policy states that, “As the subject begins to de-escalate or lessen the resistance offered, the office must de-escalate in a similar manner.”
When asked if the officer acted in line with this policy, Langham responded, “There was substantial compliance to that policy based upon what was taking place,” Langham said.
Langham noted he did not see any major problems with the officer’s actions related to trying to control the situation without excessive force or violence up until that point, but then things got out of control.
Speaking with WOOD TV’s Donovan Long on April 14 Langham emphasized the need for patience with the investigation. “I would just ask everyone to allow time; you want them to make the right decision,” said Langham. “You don’t want the decision to be made in a fast-paced way just to resolve any issues that may be in the community.”
Langham stated the investigation is under the jurisdiction of the Michigan State Police, who will then turn over findings to the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office to determine if they will charge the office, and if so, what those charges will be.
“They’re going to take it from the traffic stop and every legal command that the officer gave Patrick Lyoya all the way up to the fatal shot that was fired,” said Langham. “They have a long way to go to get there; they have to have interviews with everyone that may have seen something, including the police officer himself.”