Patrick Lyoya's family demand white officer who shot him dead be persecuted, saying they fled war in Democratic Republic of Congo in 2014 only to discover a "genocide" in US.

Patrick Lyoya, who was shot and killed by police officer on April 4, had fled DRC with his family in 2014 and arrived in the US as a refugee.
Patrick Lyoya, who was shot and killed by police officer on April 4, had fled DRC with his family in 2014 and arrived in the US as a refugee. (AFP)

The parents of a Black man shot dead by a white police officer have said they had fled the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) only to discover a "genocide" in the United States and called for the officer to be prosecuted.

Patrick Lyoya, 26, was killed during a traffic stop in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan on April 4, the latest in a grim litany of Black people dying at the hands of police in the United States that has ignited widespread protests against racism and demands for reform.

Police have released four videos from the incident, one of which shows the officer –– who has not been named –– lying on top of Lyoya as the two scuffled, and then appearing to shoot him in the head.

Lawyers for the Lyoya family compared the killing to executions of Ukrainian civilians by Russian soldiers, saying they were not seeking special treatment but only "equal justice."

At an emotional press conference, attorney Ben Crump blasted what he called an "unnecessary, unjustifiable, excessive use of fatal force" that saw the officer "escalate a minor traffic stop into a deadly execution."

He said the family wants the officer to be identified, fired and prosecuted.

'I thought I came to a safe land'

The officer is on paid leave while state police investigate whether to bring charges, authorities have said.

Lyoya's mother Dorcas described fleeing war in DRC. The family reportedly emigrated in 2014.

"I thought that I came to a safe land," she said through tears. "Now... my son has been killed with bullets."

"I didn't know, I didn't believe that in this country there was a genocide," said Lyoya's father, Peter.

Both parents spoke through a translator.

Crump, who has taken a leading national role in advocating for Black victims of police violence, thanked the police for their transparency in releasing the videos.

He said the officer had failed to follow basic training and had carried out multiple instances of violence against Lyoya, a father of two and the oldest of six siblings, who was "simply trying to get away."

Nothing 'to justify' killing

Prior to the shooting, the men appear to be wrestling on the ground for control of the officer's taser.

Crump said the taser had already been fired twice, meaning it was no longer usable –– a fact he argued the officer should have known.

There was nothing, he said, "to justify him reaching for his service revolver, taking it and putting it to the back of Patrick's head and pulling the trigger. Blowing his head off. "

"We are condemning Russian soldiers for shooting civilians in Ukraine in the back of the head," he said.

"If it's wrong to shoot civilians in the back of the head in Ukraine, it is wrong for the police to shoot civilians in the back of the head here in Grand Rapids, Michigan."

Dozens of protestors had gathered late on Wednesday in Grand Rapids after police released the videos of the shooting. Lyoya's parents had reportedly attended and called for the demonstration to remain peaceful.

Police killings of Black Americans have drawn acute national attention in recent years, particularly after a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on the neck of George Floyd until he died in May 2020.

Floyd's death, which was filmed by a bystander in a video that went viral, sparked months of protests against racial injustice and police brutality in the United States and around the world.

READ MORE: Protests in US city after police share video of Black man's death

Source: AFP