There is a sadness that I am feeling this week. It began on the afternoon of April 4th, when I learned that a young African man, Patrick Lyoya, had been shot and killed in a Grand Rapids neighborhood. Over the next several days, the new Police Chief, Eric Winstrom, responded to questions by the family and civic leaders.
Last Wednesday, as part of a news conference, he released several videos which recorded the interaction with a police officer and Patrick, which ended in Patrick’s death. Police Chief Winstrom walked the press, and viewers, through the video evidence. Although I knew the outcome, I was still numb when the shooting happened.
I have questions for what occurred that morning, and how what should’ve been a minor incident became something far worse. I know that there have been protests since Patrick’s death. I also know that family members, their attorney and others are asking that the name of the police officer be released. I am not sure knowing who he is would help with the healing which must occur for Patrick and the people of Grand Rapids.
Another name has now been added to a list, which never should exist. Far too often, I have had to learn the name of an unarmed African American who was shot, sometimes by police officers, other times by persons who believed they were doing the right thing. There is no clear way forward. No matter what is legally decided, a young man lost his life. Discussions and debates will continue. I don’t know if the solution is different training for those who are part of a police force, or if those who are African American can act, or react, differently when stopped.
Like many people here in Grand Rapids, I will wait patiently to see how the investigation of this shooting unfolds. I pray daily for the Lyoya family and the police officer involved. I invite and encourage each of you and your faith communities to do the same. I also ask prayers for those who are protesting, and the police who stand before their station to guard each other and the building which is their headquarters.
On Sunday, we celebrated the empty tomb and its significance for our lives and our souls. For God, nothing is impossible. Our Lord will carry us through this time, preparing us for a day when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24). And Amen.